City leaders plan to move Lytle Street southeast about 40 yards and build a new intersection with Broad Street – creating a “grand entrance” to downtown – in conjunction with a massive overhaul dubbed the Bridge Over Broad.
The project will incorporate a roundabout and comprehensive landscaping to enhance the area and invite motorists into the central business district, Mayor Tommy Bragg said.
But that proposal met mixed reactions during a community meeting last week on the state’s $17.6 million project.
“They’re going to build a ($17) million bridge and put a red light up on each side of it?” said city resident W.J. Freeze. “Amazing. That’s the state for you.”
In the city’s packed council chambers, Freeze raised that issue with city Transportation Director Dana Richardson, who explained that a red light will be needed at the shifted Lytle Street location to help control traffic flow and to build the new entrance to downtown Murfreesboro.
The lighted Lytle Street intersection, which will require the city to acquire two properties owned by Steve Waldron, is designed to make up for the closing of West College at Memorial Boulevard, Richardson said. He did not have an estimate on the cost of the Lytle Street work. The City Council was to approve a $183,402 design contract Thursday night with Wiser Co. for the intersection and street relocation, which will have a roundabout where Lytle meets West College.
Bill Jones, area executive with Pinnacle Financial Partners, said the Lytle Street project shows that city leaders recognize the importance of keeping downtown Murfreesboro easy to reach by putting in an entrance to go along with West Main Street.
“Anything that makes access to downtown is good for anybody that has a business downtown, not just Pinnacle,” Jones said.
The bank executive called the Broad bridge project a difficult situation, one that requires the Tennessee Department of Transportation and city leaders to put as little impact as possible on the businesses whose property will be affected by the work. He pointed out that plans by Bell Construction to work at night and keep two lanes open in all directions should alleviate some of the pain.
“I just hope we can think about our local businesses right there during this construction phase,” Jones said.
Tennessee Department of Transportation Broad Street project’s bridge over Broad connecting Old Fort Parkway and Memorial Boulevard is to be done in three phases lasting three years. Utility relocation is under way and is expected to continue until spring 2015, requiring temporary paving and traffic shifts on the west side of Broad to build the east side of the Broad.
From spring 2015 to December 2015, traffic patterns will be reconfigured on Memorial and Old Fort to construct ramps on Memorial. Walls will be built and construction finished on College Street, the west side of Broad Street and on Broadmore Boulevard.
A third phase expected to last from September 2015 to May 2016 involves grading and construction of a bridge and its walls, along with decorative concrete work, traffic signal installation and final pavement marking.
Bragg, who originally opposed the bridge project, said Tuesday he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the project. He was worried that a monolithic structure in the middle of town would destroy the businesses around it. But he acquiesced a couple of years ago and now points out that Old Fort/Memorial traffic will no longer be forced to stop at Broad. Vehicles also will have more left-hand turn lanes from each direction on Broad, which is one of the busiest intersections in the state with some 60,000 vehicles using it each day and 72,000 projected by 2034.
Even though the project is under way, several people at Tuesday’s meeting still weren’t sold on it.
Business owner Earl Gresham, who owns property on West College Street, told city leaders the project will hurt his livelihood because it cuts the street’s entrance from Memorial. “I’m very concerned,” he said.
Businesses in four directions for several hundred yards will be affected.
“We’re in favor of the idea. We don’t know if the design is going to work,” said Doug Rasbury, with the Red Cross, which will lose all of its Memorial Boulevard parking area to the project. “Something needs to be done.”
John Morris, owner of the Quality Furniture building on Old Fort, is concerned about the traffic flow.
“If they flow it good, you won’t have any problem at all,” Morris said. “The flow is fine right now. They just get backed up and they want to build a bridge.”
Henry Huddleston of Huddleston Oil Co., minced no words in his opposition and said he plans to start a petition to fight the project, even though utility relocation is being done already.
“I think it’s the worst thing we can do for our city and our children if they’re culpable and don’t think their vote and voice matters,” said Huddleston, whose company office is located west of the project on Old Fort.
Huddleston called the project a “myriad of contradictions,” pointing out that a city plan to improve the intersection could have cost a few million dollars and taken much less time. The state, however, said it had only a 20-year life.
By adding turning lanes at three of the four directions, the city could have solved most of its problems, he said. Instead, the state will spend $17.6 million to move traffic jams to the next red light, in addition to cutting off a prime entrance to downtown Murfreesboro on West College Street, Huddleston noted.
“It’s just really frustrating,” Huddleston said.
TDOT spokeswoman Deanna Lambert said the state will be attentive to people’s concerns throughout the project. Two lanes are supposed to remain open in each direction throughout the project’s duration.
A spot on TDOT’s website will be dedicated to the Broad Street bridge project, with information, updates and place where people can register complaints, she said.
FYI: For information about the Broad Street project, go to http://www.tn.gov/tdot/sr1/.