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Providence road project delayed at Mt. Juliet interchange
Sep 23, 2005 12:00 am
September 21, 2005
Though anchor stores in Providence Marketplace open in early 2006, construction to improve the Mt. Juliet Road Interchange may have just begun – a "bump in the road" one developer said could create traffic snarls.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will not take bids for the project until December, Mt. Juliet City Planner Bobby Franklin and state officials said Tuesday, adding city officials had initially hoped the letting date would come next month.
"We had hoped that they'd let it as early as October, but it doesn't appear that that's going to be possible," Franklin said. "I'm not so sure that there's a great deal of difference in how much construction work will occur between an October and December letting because most of the actual work is going to occur in the early spring anyway."
As a result of the change in letting dates, work on the project, which involves the widening of Mt. Juliet Road to five lanes, the widening of interstate access ramps and the relocation of Belinda Parkway, is expected to coincide with nearly a half-dozen grand openings inside Providence Marketplace.
A new Kroger store is scheduled to open at the South Mt. Juliet Road location in January 2006, followed by a Best Buy store one month later. Target, Belk's and JC Penney are expected to open for business in March of '06, and Marketplace developer Bill Misiaveg said a 50,000-square-foot movie theater could open as early as May.
Noting road construction and grand openings would most likely occur during the same period, Franklin said, "I'm very concerned that these things get started, but I'm confident that TDOT will put an appropriate amount of emphasis on the project."
TDOT Spokesperson Kim Keelor said changes in traffic count at the busy intersection have forced state staff to take a second look at the design of the project.
"As the Providence Place project has progressed, interest in property in the retail development has been overwhelming," Keelor said. "This has resulted in what once was a multi-phased retail development becoming a one-phase development. Traffic numbers have increased dramatically. In order to accommodate this increased traffic, TDOT is working with the city's consultant to make necessary changes to the design of the I-40 interchange and Mount Juliet Road."
Keelor added state staff are searching for ways to "accelerate" the letting date, including "breaking the project into two projects so that one project can be let in advance of the other."
She said the state's goal is for construction on the project to begin in early spring though presently there is no confirmed letting date.
A developer with Nashville-based CPS Land, which is overseeing the development of the neighboring 3,200-home Providence project, shared Franklin's outlook Tuesday.
Referring to the latest development as a "bump in the road," CPS Land's Dudley Smith said his company will work to "manage the bumps" as the project moves forward.
"There's no doubt that that's going to be a lot of stress on that interchange, but typically, things get worse before they get better," Smith said. "That's just kind of the way things are done for the most part. That's unfortunate, but it's most often reality – it has to be a problem before it gets fixed.
"It is a problem now. The problem is going to get worse. The great news is that there is a plan to fix it," he added.
Franklin said he did not foresee "a great deal of difficulty" in the widening of Mt. Juliet Road to five lanes and explained the relocation of Belinda Parkway would be an integral part of the project.
"Part of this project is to relocate Belinda Parkway further to the south where it intersects South Mt. Juliet Road across from Adams Lane … I think getting that done prior to the opening of the shopping center is certainly possible," Franklin said. "I think it's the biggest part of the project. It's very important that Belinda Parkway is lined up with Adams Lane."
With a mild winter, Franklin said both the widening of Mt. Juliet Road and the relocation of Belinda Parkway could be completed before March. Plans to widen interstate access ramps address problems with morning rush hour traffic, he continued, would have little impact on Providence Marketplace.
"(Access ramps) probably won't be made any worse by the shopping center," Franklin said. "The shopping center itself is a p.m. traffic problem. The a.m. problem that exists needs to be dealt with and will."
Smith said officials should strive "to communicate the urgency and the importance" of the project to TDOT, but ultimately having a plan already in place is a step in the right direction.
"The growth in that area is significant and perhaps warranted more improvements than presently designed, and I think that's what everybody is scrambling to really get their arms around – to understand what would those other additional improvements need to be to keep the project on track," Smith said.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.