Gertrude Ford Boulevard will close for the month of July while the university builds a retaining wall on the west side of the roadway, and in a meeting on March 5, the Board of Aldermen elected to request the university to reopen Chucky Mullins Drive and All American Drive.
“I have made clear that the only way that we would consider this was if Chucky Mullins and All American were open for the duration of the project,” Mayor Robyn Tannehill said. “Also, this summer, we should note that we will have a lot of other construction projects that are going on.”
All American, which runs from in front of the Pavilion up behind Coulter Hall to the Grove, will open for the duration of the Gertrude Ford project, and Chucky Mullins will remain open even after construction is complete.
Some of the aldermen questioned the necessity of closing the entirety of Gertrude Ford since the retaining wall will only be being built on one side of the road.
“In my opinion, and y’all can do what you want, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” alderman Janice Antonow said. “I think they can go to their original plan where they close one lane as needed.”
The university originally planned for Gertrude Ford to be closed in August as well, but the aldermen stipulated that the construction schedule must be altered so that construction will not interfere with school opening on Aug. 6.
“The problem I have with this is a couple of things,” Antonow said. “First of all, anytime we close a road it has repercussions all over town.”
Antonow was one of the aldermen who strongly advocated to reopen the road on Aug. 1.
City engineer Reanna Mayoral expressed the university’s concerns with leaving one lane of Gertrude Ford open during construction. Mayoral said that university Director of Facilities Planning Ian Banner was hoping to avoid a gas line that is located in the area of construction as much as possible.
Several aldermen maintain concerns about the construction concluding on schedule because of the university’s recent track record with projects going over schedule.
“That’s what worries me about the time frame,” alderman Rick Addy said. “The last two road closures they’ve done, they have not been completed within the time frame at all.”
The stretch of Chucky Mullins Drive from Highway 6 to Old Taylor Road has been closed since April 2018. When the road was initially closed, it was expected to reopen sometime in January, but the road remains closed.
Chucky Mullins Drive was closed to allow the construction on the South Campus Recreation and Transportation Hub to commence, but the university has made no indication that the project is nearing completion. Similar to the January plan to reopen Chucky Mullins, the university also planned on opening the recreation center in early 2019.
The delays in opening follow a recent trend in university facilities management of missed deadlines and extensions.
Renovations to the student union were expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2019 spring semester. However, in a press release sent out in February, director of the student union Bradley Baker notified the public that it will not be complete until the end of the school year.
Construction on the Ole Miss Student Union began in July of 2015 and will have taken nearly four years if completed on the current timeline.