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Legislators seek road funds
Oct 01, 2004 12:00 am
State lawmakers from Wilson and Sumner counties formally requested funding to widen Highway 109 at a series of meetings with Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely on Thursday.
Officials from across Wilson County expressed bewilderment earlier this year when TDOT requested the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization postpone the project.
Maintaining the project remained a priority, TDOT officials stressed the project had not been "dropped," maintaining their request was made in an effort to update the MPO building schedule.
Funding for right-of-way purchases related to the project were in TDOT's budget this year, but the MPO schedule indicated construction work on Hwy. 109 was also to begin in 2004.
MPO Director Jeanne Stephens said TDOT requested the organization's building schedule reflect funding would be available for the Hwy. 109 widening project in 2006.
In a pair of Thursday meetings with TDOT officials, local representatives sought to cement that date, requesting funds be allocated for the project in the transportation department's 2005-06 budget, State Sen. Mae Beavers and State Rep. Susan Lynn explained. Both said they were encouraged by TDOT's interest in the project.
"I felt like both meetings went very, very well, and they did indicate … that (Hwy.) 109 is a priority project for them," Lynn said, adding TDOT officials indicated the construction funding for the project would be a priority in the department's 2005-06 budget.
Noting she was "grateful," TDOT agreed to listen to legislators' concerns, Beavers added she is hopeful money will be available in the budget to fund the project.
"Everything is dependent on what Congress does and how much money we get … but (TDOT) is committed to funding the project if at all possible next year," Beavers said.
Both local lawmakers noted TDOT had previously pledged to invest in alternative road projects in affected counties after placing State Route 840 North on hold. By funding the Hwy. 109 project, they said TDOT would be honoring the commitment.
"We feel like it's near the top of the list, as long as you've got enough money to go around," Beavers said. "(TDOT) made a commitment to the Wilson and Sumner delegations last year, and it's just a matter of getting the funding for the construction in the budget."
Lynn described widening Hwy. 109 as "extremely important," and said the project will ultimately have a positive influence on mobility and development in Wilson County.
"It's most important for the safety of people who drive that road," she said.
Plans to relocate Highway 141, also known as Hartsville Pike, were briefly discussed at Thursday's meeting. Right-of-way purchase funds for that project have already been secured, and TDOT officials said in September that construction dollars for the Hwy. 141 project are expected to become available in 2007.
Lynn said TDOT officials hope to receive input from Lebanon regarding possible routes for the new Hwy. 141, but noted funding for both Hwys. 109 and 141 are far from concrete.
"(Funding) is not written in stone," she said. "We all hope it is. We all want it so badly."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.