Construction is barreling forward on the Paul Lowry Road project, which will provide better access to the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park south of Downtown.
The six-month project began in June, and a completion date is on target for the second week of December.
“The project’s purpose is to serve all of the industrial community at Pidgeon Industrial Park,” said Ted Fox, public authorities liaison for the city of Memphis and Shelby County in service of the Electrolux project.
Road improvements were needed in the area due to infrastructure demands created by several factors, including the entrance of Electrolux to the local business community and the creation of 1,200 new employment opportunities, the production and capacity expansion by Nucor Corp., and the development of a logistics park by Canadian National Railway Co. to accommodate warehousing and distribution center buildings.
“This is a big improvement,” Fox said. “The road will only become more congested in the future, and this project will provide a great deal of near-term relief for a number of employees at Electrolux as well as for the heavy traffic that is already on the road from Nucor and the CN intermodal yard.”
The project will also add a turn lane that will help to improve the flow of traffic.
The improvements are being funded by a $3 million investment from the Delta Regional Authority. Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA, had to get special approval from each of the eight Mississippi Delta governors within a 48-hour time span because the amount for the grant exceeded the maximum allowed of $500,000. Each state agreed to contribute funds to the project.
“What is good for Memphis and Shelby County is good for the region,” said Masingill at a news conference held earlier this month in front of the new Electrolux manufacturing plant, just south of the TVA Allen Steam Plant.
The event, which was attended by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., featured the project’s first concrete pour.
“This project is about working together as a region,” Masingill said. “We will never have enough resources by ourselves to tackle the issues that we face.”
The project will include 2,386 feet of road widening and 4,360 feet of improved shoulders.
The traffic along Paul Lowry Road has experienced very little disruption because the contractors were careful to schedule construction in such a way as to minimize disruption, according to Jim McDougal, Memphis Area Association of Governments project manager.
“The biggest challenge has been to maintain traffic through the area,” said Stan Klenk, program manager for project coordinator Allen & Hoshall. “During some parts of the project, we’ve had to close a lane or shift traffic from one side of the road to the other in order to have room to work. We cannot shut the road down because of neighbors to the south and north that need for the road to be open.”
Klenk pointed out that Electrolux has already moved about 50 people into the office building.
“So they are using the access to get into the facility now, and construction is still going on with the manufacturing and warehouse areas,” he said.
That construction is expected to be complete by Jan. 15, and Electrolux could start up operations later in the year.
The overall project scope includes widening of the existing paved road from 36-feet-wide to 60-feet-wide, expanding the road from two lanes to five, with an additional 12-foot widening for turn lanes adjacent to the drives into the Electrolux plant.
Construction will also feature the relocation and enhancement of an existing open ditch; relocation of existing water and electric public utility facilities to make room for widening; restriping and traffic control signage for the expanded roadway; the installation of eight-foot-wide gravel shoulders along both sides of the existing roadway; and the grassing of disturbed slopes.
Ferrell Paving Inc. is handling the construction. Ferrell’s past projects include an $11.6 million roadway portion of Nonconnah Parkway Phase II for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, an $11.2 million section of Third Street, also for TDOT, and a $6.2 million aircraft ramp expansion for FedEx Corp.
More road improvements are likely in the area in the next few years.
“The overall plan is for Paul Lowry Road to be widened all the way through Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park,” Klenk said.
Further road widening to the south will depend on the availability of funds, which Fox thinks could happen sometime in 2013.
“The road still needs to be taken further south, but this is a good start,” said Fox, referring to Electrolux’s future development of a 582-acre parcel.