(Illustration courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Transportation)
The very same week the Tennessee Department of Transportation opened the remainder of embattled State Route 840 to traffic, the agency announced it will move forward with a long-awaited project in the center of Murfreesboro.
For years, local leaders and TDOT officials have discussed building an overpass at the Memorial Boulevard and Broad Street intersection.
And now it seems the rumored nightmare of a road project is actually going to happen.
"We've talked about it for 15 years at least," Murfreesboro Transportation Director Dana Richardson said, adding TDOT had a design and contract for it in 1996, but the project never came to fruition. "Now it's in the budget, and everybody has signed off."
The only thing standing in the way of the estimated $17 million project are the bids.
"We hope to begin the bidding process in the spring or summer of 2013 and the project should take about three years," explained Beth Emmons, TDOT community relations officer.
When it's finished, Memorial Boulevard (SR 96) will pass over Broad Street, alleviating congestion at the crowded intersection.
"It's called a single urban interchange. It includes an overpass; SR 96 will go over (Broad Street). We are working with the city to make it aesthetically pleasing," Emmons said.
When it's finished, a four-lane State Route 96 will pass over a six-lane Broad Street with entrance and exit ramps.
"It's a substantial project in the core of the city," Richardson said.
Emmons said the state knows the project will be inconvenient, but it is working with the city to make the painful project less so.
"TDOT's goal, along with the city of Murfreesboro, is to create a public involvement component through the construction phase," she said. "We are committed to working closely with the business owners to resolve any issues they may have."
Richardson echoed her statement, adding the most important part of the construction process is communicating with and answering questions from the public.
And one of the biggest questions is: Where will the traffic go during construction?
"One of the things we're doing, before TDOT bids it out, is we're going to hold public meetings to keep everyone in the know," Richardson said, adding the city is looking now at ways to re-route traffic and relocate utilities in the area.
But re-routing traffic through the center of town is going to be difficult at best.
"It's one of the busiest intersections in the state," Richardson said.
When the project was first proposed in the mid 1990s, it was the busiest intersection in the state and is still in the top two or three, Richardson said.
In the intervening years, the city has done what it could with the timing of traffic lighting to keeping cars flowing, but there is only so much they can do.
"Traffic is bad at that interchange and it's only going to get worse," Emmons said. "By 2014 it's estimated some 60,000 cars per day will travel that road."
In the meantime, those cars will need to find another way through the center of town.
"It's going to be hard, but I'm looking forward to the conclusion of it because it will enhance the traffic flow," Richardson said.