Work begins on Long Beach sidewalk project

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Long Beach students will soon have a safer and easier way to get to two elementary schools. A long-awaited sidewalk project is about to get underway, five years after the city received a federal grant to build it.

Crews closed a small section of Commission Road Wednesday to continue moving underground utility lines. The work will help pave the way for the sidewalk project on the north side of Commission.

"That's the top priority is the safety of the children and we were fortunate to get a grant," said Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie.

That $350,000 Safe Routes to School Grant will cover the construction of a half-mile sidewalk from the Long Beach School District Office to Daugherty Road. Some students who attend Quarles Elementary and Harper McCaughan Elementary Schools are looking forward to putting on their walking shoes and pulling out their bikes.

"I think it'd be pretty nice, especially because a lot of kids they are bike riders and it would be nice to walk on and off," said Harper McCaughan fifth grader Joel Dorris.

"The bus is good for rainy days and stuff, but I could also walk on gorgeous afternoons or mornings," said Harper McCaughan sixth grader Jazlyn Swartz.

"If people want to walk, they can get some exercise in the morning. I think that's a good idea," said Harper McCaughan sixth grader John Frye.

While the city of Long Beach is heading up the project, it was gifted students in Long Beach who applied for the grant. It was actually approved five years ago. The mayor said there's a good reason why it has taken so long to get the project started.

"With them doing that, we're going to have pretty much an extensive drainage to take place also. That's what kind of strung this out a little bit is tying some local drainage with some of the work that's covered in the grant," said Skellie. "It's taken that long to get it engineer approved, and for us to get funding and get it in place to extend this project."

The city will spend $150,000 for the drainage improvements.

"In severe rains, it was bit of a problem there, threaten some homes. This we hope and feel will alleviate that," said Skellie.

By tying-in both projects, neighbors will benefit from less flooding worries and a safer path to school.

The Gulf Regional Planning Commission worked with the Long Beach students to write the grant. The mayor said once the Mississippi Department of Transportation approves the sidewalk plans, the project could go out for bids in early December. The work should wrap-up by the summer.

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