The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will go forward with recommendations recently submitted by the Citizens Resource Team (CRT) charged with studying alignment options for the final segment of State Route 840 South in Williamson County.
That section runs approximately 10 mi. in length from Bending Chestnut Road to east of Thompson Station Road.
“We believe the Citizens Resource Team’s recommendation represents the best option encompassing all considerations from right of way impacts to environmental impacts,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen. “After reviewing the scope of their work, and a good deal of public input, we agree with the recommendations provided by the CRT. I would like to thank all members of the team for volunteering for this rigorous duty.”
“This decision was literally years in the making, as many people know who have been passionately involved in the process,” stated TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “A majority of the team reached the conclusion that the corridor known as Alternate One is the best option, and we agree.”
Nine corridors were considered by the CRT during a series of 15 meetings. Alternate One extends between Bending Chestnut Road past the Natchez Trace Parkway crossing to near Thompson’s Station Road. It was designed to reduce the number of crossings of the Garrison Creek and other headwaters to one crossing and to explore using city-owned property instead of private property for a portion of the alignment. It also avoided cultural and prehistoric sites identified near the eastern terminus between Carter’s Creek Road and Thompson’s Station Road.
In spring 2003, Bredesen and Nicely targeted 15 of the state’s most controversial road projects for reconsideration, including SR840 South, and requested that they be studied by the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research.
The results included a recommendation to move forward while re-examining the environmental assessment for the project with respect to the streams and wetlands, which has been done. The study also included a strong recommendation to encourage the department to increase citizens input on the remaining portion of the highway, hence the formation of the CRT.
Using the Context Sensitive Solutions approach, the CRT and TDOT staff conducted a study identifying the possible impacts each of the proposed nine corridors would have on cultural, historic, environmental, community and economic resources. They identified public support and concerns for each corridor, and then made a final recommendation.
“It has not been easy, as we were having to retrofit the Context Sensitive Solutions approach into a project that was already well under way. In spite of the limitations, I think we were able to come up with solutions that both maximize the protection of the environment and meet our transportation needs,” said Gene Cotton, CRT member and environmental activist.
“TDOT’s forward thinking of promoting alternatives and encouraging the integration of the public in transportation decision making, signals the beginning of a wiser process that will help restore public trust in the Department of Transportation. This is not only a victory for those of us concerned about SR-840, but for all citizens of the state, as this process is implemented in future road projects.”
Eight CRT members recommended Alternate One for the following reasons:
• Protects Franklin Springs.
• Protects Indian burial grounds.
• Uses more of the previously acquired right of way.
• Stays within currently approved Natchez Trace Crossing.
• Majority of public meeting comments seem to support Alternate One.
• Alternate Two represents a dramatic change in route and there is not a compelling reason to make that change, nor is the cost difference enough to be a deciding factor.
• Based on current data, the difference between the effects of Alternate One and Two on headwaters appears to be negligible.
• Alternate One has less impact for new residential displacements.
The project will now enter the design phase.