A U.S. senator and a former congressman joined local politicians and MTSU officials Friday in celebrating the long-anticipated $18.2 million renovation of Middle Tennessee Boulevard.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and former U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) joined with Middle Tennessee State University in celebrating the roadway’s completion.

“We celebrate this addition to our community that will help not only beautify our campus, the City of Murfreesboro and certainly Rutherford County,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said.

The roadway’s landscaping has continued to be a challenge, officials say. A contractor is responsible for handling landscaping until the City of Murfreesboro “accepts” the roadway, Murfreesboro’s public information director Mike Browning said. A city crew had to go work on the landscaping prior to Friday’s ceremony, however.

The city expects to take possession of Middle Tennessee Boulevard from a maintenance standpoint once a federally required “punch list” has been completed, which should happen by the end of the year, Browning said.

The northbound lanes reopened in early March, according to previous media reports, with one southbound lane taking longer due to landscaping work. The project was initially expected to be completed by fall 2018, then December 2018.

Even before construction got underway in 2016, the project was delayed by a federal government audit of the city’s right-of-way acquisition procedure which required a temporary construction easement from MTSU, according to previous reports. Planning took more than a decade, officials said.

The .8-mile section of road was changed from a mixture of four and five lanes to a consistent four-lane, divided road with landscaped median between East Main and Greenland Drive. The enhancements included a pull-in area for buses in front of Murphy Center; signalized pedestrian crossings and upgraded crosswalks; brick walls with MTSU signage; and flagpoles.

The federal government provided $5.8 million in High Priority Projects funds and $1.2 million in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement Program funds; the City of Murfreesboro provided $6.2 million (including Surface Transportation Program federal funding); and MTSU provided $5 million, according to the university.

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