As a professional engineer whose office is located adjacent to the busy historic Hernando Square, Tracy Huffman with Waggoner Engineering has noticed the safety issue of merchants, shoppers, attorneys and other professionals who must navigate onrushing traffic to simply walk across the street.
For Huffman and others, it's often a matter of taking one's life in their hands to dodge the traffic as one crosses from Commerce Street to U.S. Hwy. 51.
"It's a state highway so there is a lot of traffic," Huffman said.
Many of the sidewalks and street access points are still not adequately handicapped accessible after several improvements to make them so during the past several years.
Keith Briley, Hernando Director of Planning, said Friday the long-term goal is to make the entire Square ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessible.
"That will likely take several years and several projects," added Briley. "For the most part it looks good but there are some places that need to be addressed."
The City of Hernando consulted with traffic and safety experts with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to come up with a solution.
"It's a city project that is being funded through the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization," Briley said. "MDOT (Mississippi Department of Transportation) is the administrator for the project.
"They (MPO) will fund 80 percent of the project and the city will fund 20 percent," Briley said.
The project could be let out to bid in the spring, according to Briley.
"We've still got some changes that we need to make, and then they'll come back for review before the project is let out for bid," Briley said.
Waggoner Engineering officials said the field review process is about complete.
"We did a field review for the Square project to improve ADA accessibility to improve our pedestrian crossings and ensure safety," said Collins Simpson, also with Waggoner Engineering, who serves as project engineer for the historic Hernando Square pedestrian crossing project. "We'll have some aesthetically-stamped concrete crosswalks that will look like brick."
Simpson added that the older brick raised islands that double as flower planters will be taken up and replaced by landscape islands of some other sort.
To Huffman, one of the most important features will be signaled safety crossings for pedestrians which will allow them to cross from Commerce to U.S. 51 in order to dine at nearby restaurants, attend visitation of individuals at the nearby funeral home or put gas in their vehicles at the corner gas station and convenience store.
"Just from a sheer safety standpoint, it should help improve things," Huffman said. "There is a lot more foot traffic there these days."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.