Survey respondents want third lane on I-40’s Monterey mountain

By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor

PUTNAM COUNTY – The results of a recently conducted traffic study are in and respondents overwhelmingly voiced their support of the addition of a third lane on Interstate 40 along the eastbound stretch of highway scaling the Monterey mountain. 

According to the results, 1,254 individuals participated in the 30-question survey. Approximately 50 percent of participants reported living in Cookeville. Another 30 percent said they lived inside Putnam County, but not within a particular municipality. The cities of Algood, Baxter, and Monterey each accounted for a small percentage of those who responded; 5.20 percent, 7.34 percent, and 3.07 percent, respectively. 

Nearly 7 percent of survey participants indicated living outside of Putnam County altogether. 

Of those, 605 respondents ranked adding the third lane to the 3.5-mile section of I-40 as the most-needed project. 

“I know Monterey mountain has been an issue for years,” said Putnam County Executive Randy Porter. “It was talked about when Tommy Burks was still our senator … I think it’s interesting that such a high majority of the general public that took this survey put that as their number one problem,” he added. “If you’ve ever been stuck on Monterey mountain, you know how bad it can be, you know how aggravating it can be just driving up Monterey Mountain (and) how long it takes sometimes to go that three-mile stretch.” 

With four bridges spanning that section of interstate, the project, while considered among one of the county’s top priorities, could prove to be costlier than other proposed improvement projects. 

The two-lane roadway frequently becomes congested when vehicles attempting to pass tractor-trailers traveling in the right-hand lane, are blocked by slow-moving vehicles, often tractor-trailers, attempting to pass from the left-hand lane.

“If the trucks would all stay in the right-hand lane and leave the left lane open, it wouldn’t be too bad,” Porter said. “But, they don’t do that.” 

Tractor-trailers are to stay in the right-hand lane throughout that stretch of roadway but some operators ignore the posted rule. 

“They get side-by-side and block everything and you’re creeping up Monterey mountain doing 25 or 30 miles per hour,” Porter added. 

In addition to the Monterey Mountain suggestion, respondents ranked other projects – at least 30 in all – based on their importance to the individual. 

With 341 votes wasproposed improvements to the intersection of S. Jefferson Avenue and I-40 in Cookeville. 

Potentially adding a center turning lane on S. Jefferson Avenue from Foutch Drive to E. Spring Street – or even reducing the section to three lanes – took the number three spot in the results, with 306 of those surveyed saying they felt that particular project was most-needed. 

Meanwhile, 297 individuals say improvements at the intersection of S. Willow Avenue and W. Jackson Street, including adding additional turning lanes, were most important to them. Another 283 respondents named shoulder improvements along Hilham Highway as Putnam County’s most-needed road improvement project. 

A proposed new north-south connector took the 14th spot in the survey results. That proposed project would include the construction of a north-south connector from Tennessee Avenue to Gainesboro Grade in the western portion of the county.

That proposed connector is reminiscent of a long-since scrapped connector that was on the books approximately 20 years ago. That proposed project, then known as “Corridor J,” was reportedly fully-funded but was abruptly scrapped even though state and local officials were reportedly actively taking steps to move forward with the project. 

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