By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – After months of compiling and narrowing a list of proposed projects that would seek to improve a variety of local state roadway projects, the Putnam County Traffic Committee recently met with Tennessee Department of Transportation representatives to informally discuss those proposed projects and gather feedback.
“I just want to make sure that you know, and I’ve said this before, everyone at this table appreciates all that TDOT is doing now and has done in Putnam County,” Cookeville mayor Ricky Shelton told those in attendance Wednesday. “We just want to make sure that you know what we need and get your advice on how to proceed going forward so that maybe we can have more opportunities too.”
For those proposed projects identified by the city of Cookeville, data measuring traffic counts and accident data helped the city to narrow its list to eight of those most-needed, they say, roadway and intersection improvements including:
- Providing a second northbound left-turn lane on S. Willow Avenue (Hwy. 135) at W. Jackson Street and provide an additional exclusive westbound right-turn lane on W. Jackson.
- Widen E. Spring Street (Hwy. 70N) to three or five lanes from E. Broad Street to Hwy. 111.
- Widen E. Spring Street (Hwy. 70N) to three or five lanes from Hwy. 111 to I-40.
- Construction of a new east-west route north of Cookeville, from Hwy. 111 to Hilham Road (Hwy. 136).
- Widen W. Broad Street (Hwy. 70N) to three or five lanes from W. Spring Street to Tennessee Avenue.
- Provide a second northbound left-turn lane on S. Jefferson Avenue (Hwy. 136) at E. Jackson Street.
- Add a center turn lane on S. Jefferson Avenue from Foutch Drive to E. Spring Street.
- Widen S. Willow Avenue (Hwy. 135) to three or five lanes from Gould Drive to Lee Seminary Road.
Other possible projects located throughout the county presented during the meeting include the proposed addition of a turning lane at the intersection of County Farm Road and Gainesboro Grade, addressing the narrow shoulders along segments of Hwys. 135, 136 and 164, adding a turning lane to a section of Hwy. 82, and widening Ditty Road to accommodate traffic flow.
According to TDOT, several of the projects may be able to move sooner, given their smaller scale of work needed for completion. Projects that include simply adding a turning lane or that come in around $1 million or less, for example, can sometimes be completed using a different pot of money to fund the work. The committee plans to compile a list of those smaller projects to submit to the agency’s chief engineer for consideration.
The committee is also currently fine-tuning a survey to send to residents. That 40-question survey would be sent to residents of all of Putnam County’s municipalities in order to gain further input on the proposed projects.
“We would like the public tell us what they think or what (is) the highest priority to them; especially if we have to seek local funding,” said James Mills, planning director for the city of Cookeville.
“We want community buy-in from the whole county and each town in the county,” added Wes Hughen, director of TDOT project development.
Currently, those projects tagged by the state for completion through the Improve ACT take priority, according to TDOT reps. That list includes 962 projects across the state; each estimated to take 10-14 years to complete.
“But, with that said, in five or six years, we’re going to start looking at newer projects to come back in,” said Joe Deering, TDOT’s Region 2 director, regarding the committee’s proposed list.
Once newer projects, like those presented by the committee, move up TDOT’s to-do list it could be another 10-15 years before they are completed.
“That’s nothing new. I think, honestly and truly, what we’re trying to do is position ourselves (that) by the time there’s a slot, we’ve got cost estimates, we have buy-in, we have consensus, we’ve been on the RPO and, if a project falls off, we’re ready,” added Melinda Keifer, Cookeville’s economic development coordinator. “We just want to be poised for whatever happens next.”