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IN OUR OPINION
Oct 01, 2004 12:00 am
Tennessee Department of Transportation officials need to get the message about growing towns in Middle Tennessee still land locked without major thoroughfares to access Interstate 40.
Leaving these towns without a transportation lifeline robs their citizens of quality of life and the state as a whole of economic development opportunities.
Recently, TDOT officials engaged in the very familiar game of state government doublespeak while trying to explain away why they had put to very sensible and badly needed projects in the Four Lakes region of Middle Tennessee on hold.
Projects to widen Highway 109 between Gallatin and Lebanon and straighten Highway 141 between Lebanon and Murfreesboro are in a state of limbo awaiting action from a little known regional planning organization, the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO.
Through the MPO's committee structure, the state recommended the delay of construction funding for the two projects until a later budget year though they were on track for funding in the next year.
Once an outcry came from state legislators spanning three counties, TDOT began to espouse their commitment to the projects. However, they are still in funding limbo.
Gallatin, Lebanon and Hartsville are three cities inextricably linked by the fact Lebanon has three interstate exits while Hartsville and Gallatin have none.
Presently, these two cities use Lebanon's exits to access Interstate 40. Their citizens come and go through Lebanon's city gates with literally daily frequency. Hwy. 109 at times during the work week is a veritable parking lot clogged with Sumner County residents trying to get to work in Nashville.
Hartsville, on the other hand, needs more things to come its way. A straighter road would provide more direct access from the interstate for industries interested in coming to the eager community.
There is also the issue of business and quality of life in Lebanon. Our county has fulfilled its end of the economic development equation, attracting world class industry to Hwy. 109.
Still, TDOT refuses to act in the face of all of this clear cut need. Officials there claim uncertainty about the federal budget. What is clear is that these road projects were needed years ago.
Our newspaper urges TDOT to listen to the legislative delegation from these three counties and make these road projects happen now, not at a time to be determined. State government should be driving progress, not standing in its way by a refusal to reject institutional inertia.