By Wally Northway
Last weekend, I was making a trip from Jackson to Hot Springs, Ark., and I passed by my hometown of Greenville. I say “passed by” because I took Highway 454 just south of the Port City to avoid all of the traffic and stop lights.
At the intersection of Highway 454 and U.S. 82, I noted the progress being made on the new Greenville bypass. When that project is complete, it sure will be a great thing for travelers. It will dump motorists out right at the new Greenville Bridge.
Unfortunately, it could be a kick in the shins for Greenville. New development was already moving farther and farther south before the project got underway, and many worry that the bypass will send even more businesses running that way — outside the city limits. The city won’t see a cent of taxes out of the deal. Ouch!
Bypasses are always controversial. They can mean the death of Main Street. The challenge for communities is how to make a bypass work for everyone. Other communities have pulled this off. They welcome the new opportunities bypasses offer while investing in inner city development, making sure the bypass has plenty of signs telling travelers — and their wallets — what they are missing if they just whiz on by.
To accomplish this, communities must pull together on the same rope. It takes compromise, patience, understanding and far-reaching vision.
The City of Greenville could do this, but it would set a new precedent. The Mississippi Delta’s largest city has historically said “no” to new opportunities (Delta State University is in Cleveland because Greenville didn’t want it), and the city’s track record of working together is weak.
I couldn’t help but marvel at the new Greenville Bridge. It’s a masterpiece, and offers huge pluses for the city and the surrounding area. That bridge came about because a bunch of leaders — federal, state and local officials representing two different states — got together, found solutions to all of the obstacles that stood in the project’s way and made it work.
Imagine all of that, Greenville.