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VOL. 122 | NO. 22 | Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Roads Open Fayette County To New Development


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Fayette County Highway Projects
Completion of Tenn. Highway 385 to Piperton
Widening of U.S. Highway 72 through Piperton
Creation of Interstate 40 exit on Tenn. Highway 196
Creation of U.S. Highway 64 bypass around Somerville

All roads lead somewhere. And in Fayette County, they are leading to more growth, especially if four separate highway projects come to fruition.

The most immediate - and definite - project is the extension of Tenn. Highway 385 into Piperton, which, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, should be open to traffic by June 30. Also in Piperton, U.S. Highway 72 from the Collierville city limits to the Mississippi state line is scheduled to be complete by about October.

The two projects are already leading to growth: 800 residential lots are ready for construction and the town hopes to make announcements related to business development over the next two months. The new infrastructure has much to do with that.

"We have some big announcements that will come up in March, April in the area of some things coming to our city that will make a difference," said Piperton Mayor Buck Chambers. "The four-lane Highway 72 has a big impact on that. We have some major thoroughfares coming through our city now. The road projects will initiate a lot of growth in our city simply because of demographics and where it's located with interchanges of major highways. It makes us lucrative because of accessibility to the airport and surrounding areas.

"Two, it's going to probably encourage a lot of corporate growth, hopefully."

A long way, baby

Piperton is not alone. Two other possible road projects would impact the county: an Interstate 40 exit at Tenn. 196 in Hickory Withe and a U.S. 64 bypass around Somerville.

Fayette County has become a desirable address, as evidenced by high-priced homes popping up across the county. That's thanks in part to the improved access Tenn. 385 will provide, as well as the access the widened U.S. 64 provided in the 1990s.

"Before, some people might have thought it was too far the way they had to go," said Myles Leifer, president of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and a residential Realtor. "They'll be willing to move out here once 385 is in because that will give them quicker access to the south side of Memphis where they might work. I think that will be a huge thing.

"I'm excited about it. I'll be able to get to a lot of places a lot faster. 385 will be a huge boon for eastern Shelby as well as western Fayette County."

The Tenn. 385 extension and I-40 exit will be a big benefit for area residents needing quicker access to Memphis, while a Somerville bypass would move trucks off the Somerville square, avoiding the highway's 30 mph speed limit through the town.

Future access

The county has high hopes for the bypass, as a new justice center was planned near the proposed route. It's something county officials have desired for years.

Currently, TDOT is preparing an environmental assessment with hopes of gaining approval in the fall. Once approval from the Federal Highway Administration is received, right of way acquisition will begin.

As for the Tenn. 196 exit, it would provide much quicker access to Memphis for the homeowners who have flocked to Hickory Withe and Oakland. The total estimated project cost for the new exit is $6.8 million, 90 percent of it federal money and 10 percent state money, according to Pamela Marshall, TDOT Region 4 community relations officer.

"We have no actual construction dates," she said. "We estimate that the earliest possible letting date would be mid-year 2010. We are at the very beginning of this project. There will be dates in the future where there will be the opportunity for the public to view the plans and make comments concerning this project, but those dates have not been set and will be advertised when the time comes."

New world of opportunities

The combination of Memphis International Airport, major rail lines and the Mississippi River has established the Mid-South as America's distribution center. Fayette County is not exactly at the center of that, but Tenn. 385, along with quick I-40 access via Hickory Withe, offers the county a great deal of new potential.

It could open up any number of opportunities, from minor retail development to new industry to high-tech jobs.

"Look at the FedEx World Tech Center that went in because of (385)," Leifer said. "Collierville won out because the state moved forward with 385. High-paying jobs went in right there just because of 385.

"I could see it (in Fayette County), especially with people moving out here now, looking at the median income, where these people work, what their jobs are. I could see that happening."

Piperton is ready. The town just this week set up a planning advisory board.

"I have to make sure we have a think tank for our city to make sure our city grows in a proper way," Chambers said. "We have to stay ahead of the curve. We have a great opportunity in our city and we want to make sure we do it right. We want to manage it properly."

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