Nine Highway 31 improvement projects planned to begin as school year ends


Nine Highway 31 improvement projects planned to begin as school year ends

By QUINT QUALLS

City leaders displayed the design plans for nine new, fully-funded projects planned for Main Street (U.S. Highway 31) that aim to collectively reduce congestion on Spring Hill’s busiest thoroughfare.

With the understanding that a five-lane widening of Highway 31 offers the only real, long-term fix for the road’s current traffic problems, in the meantime the city of Spring Hill has budgeted $2.6 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year to build turn lanes, right-turn-only concrete islands and improvements for pedestrian traffic at several key intersections.

Jerome Dempsey and Cory Hall, of Dempsey Dilling & Associates, displayed the design plans for the public at Monday’s Transportation Advisory Committee meeting. The road improvements at the four Highway 31 intersections include:

  • Wilkes Lane Intersection: A northbound right turn lane at Wilkes Court and southbound right turn lane at Wilkes Lane are planned, in addition to a concrete right-in, right-out island at Wilkes Lane. The northbound left turn lane from Main Street onto Wilkes Lane will also be eliminated as a result of the right-in, right-out island.
  • Campbell Station Parkway: The plan will add a northbound right turn lane onto Campbell Station.
  • Nasdaq Street: A right-in, right-out island will be added at the intersection of Nasdaq with Main Street along with a northbound right turn lane.
  • Commonwealth Drive: A northbound right turn lane is proposed at the Commonwealth intersection. The plan also calls for scaling back the divider island on Commonwealth on the east side of the intersection, as well as adding pedestrian crosswalks on each side of the intersection.

The design also calls for various pedestrian traffic improvements, including signalization and crosswalks.

“One reason we are doing these pedestrian crosswalks and signals,” said Alderman Chad Whittenburg, “Is with our traffic light signalization, with the way it signalizes and trips turning movements and so forth, we can actually decrease the time it takes if we have pedestrian crosswalks. We can reduce the red light time by eight seconds. It not only serves pedestrians, but it can reduce timing of the light to get traffic moving through the corridor.”

One of the planned improvements, the right-in, right-out concrete island at the intersection of Nasdaq Street and Main Street, has drawn criticism from local business owners because southbound traffic would no longer be able to turn left at Nasdaq to visit businesses there.

Steve Kroeger, of Kroeger Real Estate in Brentwood, spoke at Monday’s Transportation Advisory Committee meeting on behalf of a number of property owners and tenants who would be affected by a concrete island at Nasdaq Street.

“I think the concern is simply this,” he said. “As you pass Walgreens, you have to get past the Walgreens in order to visually see a number of businesses that are free standing businesses, such as Taco Bell, First Tennessee Bank and Christian Brothers Automotive, and also businesses in the strip centers back behind there. Elimination of this left turn lane means potential customers would have to go all way down to Commonwealth and back up Wall Street. The reality is a number of people just are not going to do that, meaning these existing businesses are going to lose business based on this proposal.”

Hall said if the left turn were put back into the plan at Nasdaq Street, it would almost negate the need for the concrete island. According to Dempsey, the left turn onto Nasdaq would also restrict the northbound left turn lane into Applebee’s.

“When we proposed this, when Dan Allen was here, one of the issues discussed was that it’s not a signalized intersection,” Dempsey said. “There’s a lot of unprotected movement there, and that was our whole reasoning. It wasn’t to negate turns into businesses or restrict it. It was more a safety issue than anything. We’re open to suggestions, but that’s the reason why.”

The next step in the process, according to Dempsey, will be to start looking into acquiring the necessary right-of-way land. The biggest concern, however, will be coordinating with Middle Tennessee Electric on relocation of poles and utilities.

The projected construction time at each of the intersections is estimated at about 30 days, although Commonwealth could take about 45 days. Dempsey said they would try to time construction to start right around the time the school year ends.

Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at quint@springhillhomepage.com.

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