The Interstate 269 bypass loop is moving closer to completion as work continues on sections running through Collierville, Fayette County and into Mississippi.
A crew from Delta Contracting Co. works on extending Interstate 269 between Tenn. 385 and U.S. 72 at Progress and Shelby Drive. The road will circle the metro area, linking regional communities.
(Photos: Lance Murphey)
Preliminary dirt work is under way to connect Tenn. 385 near the Collierville/Fayette County border to the Mississippi state line, and an eight-mile portion spanning from Poplar Avenue north to Macon Road will be complete by the end of next year.
City and county officials expect that once it is completed in the next five years the new 60-mile loop around the metro will ease traffic congestion and alleviate air quality concerns.
“In my view, it’s better for the movement of freight, better for air quality, and it will help reduce congestion on Interstate 240,” said Dexter Muller, senior vice president of community development at the Greater Memphis Chamber. “We will see the full benefits when the whole system is completed.
“When the loop gets all the way back over to I-55 is when we will see some real benefits in terms of freight movement and reduction of congestion on Interstate 240.”
Interstate 69 will eventually run from Mexico to Canada, and about 40 percent of all of the manufacturing in the U.S. takes place in its corridor. I-269 will loop east around metropolitan Memphis from Millington to I-55 in Mississippi, with roughly 35 miles in Tennessee and 25 miles in Mississippi.
Muller believes careful planning could pave the way for more industrial property along the corridor.
“We really are just about out of industrial land in Shelby County,” he said. “As a chamber of commerce, we think there is some opportunity for some industrial land in between Millington and the 269 corridor.”
Work began in December 2009 on the new eight-mile stretch of Tenn. 385 running from Poplar to Macon and should be completed by November.
Hill Brothers Construction Co. handled the grading, drainage and bridgework, and Lehman-Roberts Co. is taking care of the gravel, concrete and asphalt.
“They have finished up the grading and the base work, and they are now preparing for the paving job that will start in the spring,” said Nichole Lawrence, community relations officer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation Region IV office in Jackson.
A warehouse for Exact Commerce Group sits at 851 Progress Road in Collierville, next to another warehouse under construction. The site is near the Interstate 269 construction, an outer loop highway connecting communities in the region.
The nearly $22 million paving project will complete the section from Macon Road to Tenn. 57 in Piperton.
“We started our portion of this project in October, and we will begin paving in the spring,” said Lehman-Roberts vice president Chuck Vaccaro.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee Department of Transportation put out a $41 million contract to Dement Construction for work on a new two-mile section of I-269 running from the Mississippi state line to Tenn. 385. Site work is under way just east of U.S. 72 in Collierville between Shelby Drive and Keough Road, hooking up with nearby 385 just before it ends in Piperton.
“Work should really begin to crank up next spring, and the estimated completion date is June of 2015,” Lawrence said.
The completion of Tenn. 385 will connect Collierville more directly with I-40. The town has developed land-use plans to prepare for introduction of the new roadway.
The area spanning from I-40 to Collierville, including a bridge over the Wolf River, is likely to be one of the last connecting pieces of the new I-69/269 system. Muller said that commercial and residential land uses are likely to be more limited through that stretch of land due to environmentally sensitive areas that include aquifer recharge zones, wide flood plains and wetlands.
“We want to limit industrial uses in the northern segment and protect the eastern segment from sprawl and development,” he said. “There’s a great opportunity, but there needs to be some caution in planning and that is what is happening now.”
The Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability are currently conducting studies of the I-269 corridor in order to help better plan future development through the area.
Mississippi officials hope to have their state’s portion of the loop completed in the next five to six years.