VOL. 6 | NO. 52 | Saturday, December 21, 2013
By Michael Waddell
Major road and highway projects like the Interstate 269 loop, I-40/240 and the Mallory Road interchange near Frank Pigeon Industrial Park made substantial progress during 2013, with several phases of important transportation corridors wrapping up and new projects planned for 2014 and beyond.
“Building capacities certainly helps congestion for the peak hours of moving the business traffic, and another benefit is that with reduced congestion there is decreased air pollution that goes along with it,” said Dexter Muller, Greater Memphis Chamber senior vice president of community development.
City and county officials expect the new 60-mile I-269 loop, when finished, will alleviate traffic congestion and air quality concerns.
“The 269 needed to be in place to provide a reliever for some of the truck movements through our metro area when I-40/240 becomes restricted significantly next year,” said Muller. “The section where Sam Cooper meets up will be down to one lane in each direction, so that curb capacity for people using that route to get into and out of the central part of the city.”
Muller explained there will be a large amount of public information available as the work nears so that trucking and freight companies will use the 269 and bypass portions of the I-240 loop.
“Drivers traveling from Jackson, Miss., to Nashville will be able to circle around instead of driving through areas that are more congested,” Muller said.
A newly opened eight-mile stretch between Macon Road and Tenn. 57 in Piperton in Fayette County is the final piece of a nearly 50-mile route that travels from Millington through Arlington and south through Fayette County and into Collierville before linking back to Interstate 240 in the city of Memphis. Work on the $74 million section began four years ago and was completed last month. Hill Bros. handled the construction, and Lehman Roberts took care of the paving work.
“I think probably the biggest holdup was navigating through the wetlands around the Wolf River,” said Piperton City Manager Stephen Steinbach. “Any time you have bridges associated with a project like this you are going to lengthen your project time.”
The new roadway passes through a mostly rural area that Steinbach expects to be commercially developed in the future.
“Certainly the opening up of 385/I-269 from Millington to here and allowing traffic from I-40 to get here is going to position us for many development possibilities,” said Steinbach, who has been Piperton’s city manager since 2009. “This issue is it’s still largely a rural area where the roadway’s been constructed in Fayette County and even portions of Shelby County, and there are not urban services available like sewage infrastructure. So even though we have the road open and that’s a good first step, there’s still the issue of getting utilities to the interchange areas where commercial developers would be attracted to.”
Steinbach expects the new roadway to boost the area’s population of roughly 1,800.
“The recession seems to be abating, and we’ve experienced an uptick in residential development like many communities around us have,” he said.
The opening to Tenn. 57 is the first piece of the puzzle, and the completion to I-269 south to the Mississippi line will be the last piece of the loop in Tennessee. The final three-mile stretch in Tennessee will be built by Dement Construction on a budget of $42 million.
“Piperton is positioned to capture a lot of growth simply based on its locational attributes,” Steinbach said. “We will have three different interchanges, including the ones at (Tenn.) 57, (U.S.) 72 and at Macon Road in our urban growth area. With the advent of water and sewer to those locations, we expect to capture considerable commercial growth.”
The next segment of the loop connecting Piperton and I-55 to the south and heading to Tunica could be completed by the next year.
The $109 million I-40/240 interchange project is currently the largest TDOT construction project to be contracted in the state of Tennessee.
(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
“The leg of 269 between Piperton and Goodman Road/Highway 302 is scheduled for completion in the fall of next year, and the completion of Goodman Road to I-55 (in Mississippi) is scheduled for the end of 2016,” said Piperton Mayor Henry Coats. “All of the traffic going northeast/southwest will probably not go through Memphis and will come through Piperton instead.”
Coats also expects big growth over the next five to 10 years.
“We would like to attract upscale commercial businesses, and when we get a hotel we are looking for Hilton- or Marriott-branded hotel,” said Coats, who would like to pattern growth after upscale communities built near expressways like Madison, Miss., or Mount Juliet, Tenn.
In Mississippi, the final portion of the I-269 loop will take a bit longer to finish.
“For the work on I-269 in Mississippi, some segments are under constructions and others will be completed in the next four to five years,” said Pragati Srivastava, administrator of the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
Last year an economic development study was completed by the MPO for the corridor, which looked at the entire stretch and its potential as an economic corridor.
“The I-269 corridor, which is part of the I-69 NAFTA corridor linking Canada to Mexico, will help in relieving congestion on the I-240 corridor, especially for the freight traffic,” Srivastava said. “It can also bring opportunity for the entire Mid-South region.”
Interstate 69 will eventually run from Mexico to Canada, and approximately 40 percent of all of the manufacturing in the U.S. takes place in the I-69 corridor. I-269 will loop around metropolitan Memphis from Millington to I-55, with roughly 35 miles in Tennessee and 25 miles in Mississippi.
“The opening of State Route 385 creates an access point at I-40, and it now runs from US 51 in Millington to I-240 in Midtown,” said Nichole Lawrence, community relations officer for Tennessee Department of Transportation Region IV office in Jackson. “It will create safer movement for goods and products, and it will also help relieve congestion through the I-40/240 interchange.”
The $109 million I-40/240 interchange project is currently the largest TDOT construction project to be contracted in the state of Tennessee. Dement Construction is handling the work, which will include the construction of two additional flyovers that will greatly improve the increasing traffic flow for this area.
Businesses like the Memphis Marriott East, which sits next to I-40 at Poplar, are used to ongoing construction, and the hotel’s general manager, Greg Lindner, does not believe it is adversely affecting traffic to the hotel.
“We’ve not really been impacted by the construction. My understanding is that the project’s been going for six to seven years, and I think people are pretty numb to it,” he said.
The I-40/240 interchange work is expected to be completed by summer of 2017, and the four-year project will encompass Sycamore View Road to the east, White Station Road to the west, Walnut Grove Road to the south and Covington Pike to the north.
The project will include the state’s first four-level interchange, including a massive 75-foot-high flyover ramp leading from the north loop of I-40 to the eastbound lanes on I-40. State officials expect the project will improve traffic flow on the heavily traveled interstate system and the roads that lead to it. Average daily vehicle counts in the area range from around 97,000 vehicles to nearly 150,000 vehicles. The state projects the interchange will need to handle more than 350,000 vehicles daily by 2035
Plans also call for the completion of a dead-end ramp running from westbound I-40 to the north loop and the replacement of the existing I-40 bridge over the Wolf River. Muller also cites planning work during 2013 on the new Harahan Bridge crossing the Mississippi River, Lamar Avenue and Holmes Road as significant.
“TDOT has identified additional funding for the second phase of the Lamar Avenue project (in a new three-year plan for 2016 through 2018),” Muller said. “And it’s been a long time coming, but the Holmes Road city project is the in the process of buying right-of-way property now.”
That project could start in the second half of next year.
“Work is also underway on the Airways Boulevard/I-240 interchange, which is the gateway into our airport,” Muller said. “TDOT has allocated funding for preliminary engineering on that project.”
Other significant projects this year include the opening of the Mallory Road interchange, an important roadway that serves the Frank Pigeon Industrial Park and the other development in that area. New area projects slated to get underway next year include a new I-40 interchange at Canada Road, with work set to begin in the spring, as well as work at I-55 and Crump beginning in late 2014, according to Lawrence.