The Murfreesboro Planning Commission delayed a vote about changing the name of Mercury Boulevard to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for two weeks after a lengthy discussion to keep or drop the doctoral title.
As stated in previous meetings, a two-mile section of Mercury Boulevard would become Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and a 600-foot stretch of road beyond South Rutherford would take on the name John Bragg Highway.
The concern is whether or not including King’s doctoral title stems from the potential navigation mishaps that could come from “Doctor” and “Drive” sharing the same abbreviation.
Feedback from the Rutherford County Emergency Communications District pointed said that could affect emergency responders. The Murfreesboro Transportation Department also stated that it would not be advisable to use the “Dr.” abbreviation as a prefix.
Chairwoman Kathy Jones said she would like to avoid drifting away from these recommendations. Jones, who grew up a daughter of a doctor, said her father often emphasized that his title was not necessary for an individual to garner respect from others.
“I could never ever use the word doctor in front of his name,” said Jones of her father’s preference. “We were not to do that. You didn’t say that. You spoke his name. His name should stand for him. He didn’t need that title in front of his name to have anything to do with what you would think about the man.”
Councilman Kirt Wade, who raised the idea for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. street name in February, had a name suggestion.
“If Nashville, right down the street, can have it ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard’ why can’t we?” asked Wade, who requested more research be conducted. “I would like for us to see if we can do that, and if we can come back and they can’t do it, I’d rather say ‘Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.’”
Murfreesboro residents were recently notified of the proposed change via 12 signs posted along the route at the request of Councilman Rick LaLance. According to Assistant Planning Director Matthew Blomeley, a number of residents called the planning department requesting more information.
Third Vice President for the Murfreesboro NAACP Violet Cox-Wingo said the renaming in honor of King, “a drum major for all people,” is a move toward creating a more unified community.
Robert White, a resident of the Liberty Heights subdivision, said he’s noticed a multitude of streets named after iconic American heroes in the five years he’s lived in Murfreesboro. As a former planning commissioner in his hometown of Johnson City, he said he understands the difficulties that come with street renamings.
“I think the pros outweigh the cons in this situation,” said White. “This is an opportunity in this community to say to a segment of this community that we want to recognize a truly great American.”
The cost to get new street signs would be about $10,000, according to the city’s transportation department. The commission agreed to revisit the renaming decision at the next meeting on Wednesday, May 19.
“I think we all want to get to the same end result whether it’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or just Martin Luther King. It’s all we’re wondering about at this point, I feel like at least,” said LaLance, who made the motion to table the vote.
The John Bragg Highway name change was unanimously approved.
The planning commission also heard concerns about increased traffic and drainage issues from several members of the community, including County Mayor Bill Ketron, regarding the 78-acre Clari Park development along Medical Center Parkway, Robert Rose Drive, Wilkinson Pike and Willowoak Trail across from The Avenue.
The development will consist of residential and commercial space with two master plan options. The commission approved an amended plan for more “for sale” options as opposed to “for rent” space.