HomeNewsConger publishes letter to TDOT Commissioner, asks for Southern Bypass completion

Conger publishes letter to TDOT Commissioner, asks for Southern Bypass completion

Jackson Mayor Scott Conger has written a letter to Deputy Governor and TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley, pleading for the department to complete the US-45 Bypass Southern Extension in Jackson. The proposed southern portion of the bypass was first proposed in 2005, and has yet to be completed. 

Since the US-45 Bypass is State Route-186, it falls upon the Tennessee Department of Transportation to complete the project. The proposed bypass would connect the Bonwood Industrial Park and Airways Boulevard. 

The letter reads as follows: 

“Dear Deputy Governor and Commissioner Eley: 

I am writing to request your assistance in providing ROW funding for the proposed US-45 Bypass Southern Extension in Jackson, a TDOT IMPROVE Act project in this year’s project listing that you will be submitting to Tennessee’s General Assembly for approval. First let me share a short history of the project. For the past 15 years the City of JAckson has been trying to develop an extension of the US 45 Bypass (SR 186) from US 70 (Airways Blvd.) to US-45 (South Highland Ave.) just south of Jackson’s Central Business District. AS you may remember, in both 1999 and 2003, tornadoes in Jackson left debris blocking US-45, temporarily cutting off access to southern portions of the city and county for emergency response. Also, the low sections of Riverside Drive can be flooded, so this extension with a second reliable crossing of the Forked Deer River is badly needed for both safety and congestion reasons. 

Funding for the project first started with the passage of SAFETA-LU in 2005 when the City of JAckson received a $4 million (100% Federal) Earmark as a funding source to begin work on the project. At TDOT’s request, the City developed, through their Engineering Consultant, Cresham Smith, first a TPR, and after its completion in 2009, a NEPA Environmental Document covering the alternative routes for an extension. TDOT staff members were totally involved in the development of the TPR and environmental document. 

In May 2013, with TDOT’s help, the FEderal Highway Administration approved our Draft Environmental Assessment. However, the project was put on hold due to lack of TDOT funding. However, in TDOT’s FY 2018 3-Year Plan, funding was provided for PE and thus a Reevaluation of the Environmental Assessment had to be prepared which was completed in July 2018. A FONSI was approved in February 2019, and TDOT issued the City a Notice to Proceed with the Design Phase in April 2019. Design plans were developed with City, County and TDOT involvement, and a nPreliminary Field REview was held in January 2022. A Design  Public Meeting was held in March 2022 in Jackson for the project, and TDOT approved our FInal Preliminary Plans in July 2022. The ROW plans are currently being developed, however to date TDOT has not funded ROW acquisition in their annual legislative project listing. 

The construction of the southern extension of the US 45 Bypass has for some time been Jackson’s top needed Transportation project. Our current Long Range Transportation Plan that was recently adopted on December 1, 2022, identifies the US 45 Bypass Southern Extension as the #1 priority project for the JAckson Area MPO. As such, we strongly desire to keep this project alive and moving forward. ROW funding fo rthe project was included in TDOT’s 3-Year Work Program two years ago, but hte funding for the project was omitted in TDOT’s Program last year. We fervently request that TDOT provide funding for the Right of Way phase of the project in the next upcoming TDOT 3-Year Work Program, preferably in FY 2024. TDOT has a lot invested in this project as well as having provided the local 20% match from the start of the project development, for which we are very grateful. 

Thanks again for all that TDOT does to provide efficient and safe state highways in our city, and for all the other funded TDOT projects in Jackson that are also much needed and, to our understanding, proceeding according to schedule. 

Sincerely, 

Scott Conger”

After the March City Council meeting, Conger expressed that he isn’t concerned about if the project will be completed, but when. The current portion has taken 18 years. He says investors are hesitant to move that direction because of it. 

“Investors and developers are hesitant to put their money in South Jackson because they don’t know when the Bypass is going to happen or where the final design is going to be. So there hasn’t been a right-of-way acquisition yet,” Conger said, “So we are encouraging the state to start that right-of-way process so that we can start the construction of the Bypass. So investors and developers know where the Bypass is going to be, where they can invest their money, and plan for that. It’s really hard to plan when there’s a huge multi-million dollar unknown going on.”

Julia Ewoldt, jacksonpost.news

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