State Route 373 widening stalled by utility

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Access to Cedar Ridge Landfill, beyond the hill at right, will be by a new driveway that will be parallel to the west bound lane of Mooresville Highway (state Route 373).

Widening of state Route 373, between Interstate 65 and Lewisburg's West Side Fire Hall, might still be finished in nine months.

"The contract completion date for the SR 373 project is Nov. 15, 2011," according to B.J. Doughty, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"There have been delays associated with utility relocation," Doughty said. "The contractor has not asked for a time extension, so we must go with the original completion date."

Nevertheless, TDOT and Civil Constructors of Franklin have discussed setting a new completion date for the $16 million project, according to Civil's Project Manager Brad Henson.

"There very well may be an extension," Henson said Tuesday. "There was a pretty substantial delay in the project with the relocation of some AT&T lines, probably a seven-month delay. That doesn't necessarily mean there will be a delay, but it will play a factor in the overall schedule.

"Our commitment is to the people traveling the road and TDOT, but we're going to have to work a little harder to make up the lost time," the project manager said. Waivers are "possible as long as the department and the contractor agree that the delay was out of the department's and the contractor's control.

"We've had these discussions and will have an agreement, but I don't think that anybody is committed to a date," Henson said, noting another problem: "One of the worst Januaries we've had...

"We're not saying we're not going to be done in November and I would hope people would remain patient with us."

Meanwhile, at least one construction employee at the site, Clint Cope, 21, of Lewisburg, anticipates his work will end here by Thanksgiving. He moved to Poteet Road from Smithville in June to work on the project.

"We work a lot of hours," Cope said recently. "I haven't had a chance to go bowling."

Beyond his sport of choice, Cope says he likes to drive off-road trucks, a roller, hoe ram and a pavement-sweeping brace broom.

Last week, Mayor Barbara Woods and some members of Lewisburg's Community Development Committee met at City Hall with state officials.

Shawn Bible of TDOT's beautification office went with Woods and CDC associates Lisa Jackson, Bob Phillips, Jim Bingham, Edmund Roberts and Pam Russell to the construction site.

"We want it to be a pretty corridor into town," Woods said. "We're trying to make a good impression on industrial prospects coming in."

The concept of pleasant "gateways" into a city is forwarded by landscape architects and advocates of principles advanced by Main Street USA groups.

The CDC group toured the road "to look at the prospective things to make it a pretty pathway," Woods said

TDOT's beautification officer and the ad hoc CDC committee anticipate the contractor may have to "take boulders away and piles of dirt," Woods said. "You know, if you find dirt in Marshall County, you have to be very careful because you find so much more rock."

The soil would be important when the CDC wants "to have native trees planted there," the mayor said. Committeemen "plan to meet with the construction contractors."

Meanwhile, safety devices are to be installed; "They spoke about break-away devices" instead of immovable barriers, she said.

"And they do like projects that use natural vegetation," Woods reported, turning to an issue mentioned in a political campaign and public comments that have described the widening of SR 373 as the road to nowhere.

"People have asked me, 'Why are you working on 373 and not 50?" Woods said contrasting Mooresville Highway with Jim McCord Highway, also known as the New Columbia Highway.

"Well," she said, "it's all in Marshall County."

I-65's Exit 32 has two closed gas stations, but the property owner of what was Williams Store at Globe Road plans to redevelop, Lewisburg Industrial Development Director Greg Lowe said.

"I would use it to bring people into town," Woods said of SR-373 and Exit 32, "because it's easier to give directions that way."

The ad hoc committee is to meet in early March with representatives from TDOT and Civil Constructors, the mayor said.