Monday, October 6, 2008

Airport neighbors want Harding Place extension to I-40 shifted

By CHRISTINA E. SANCHEZ • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • October 6, 2008 Louan Brown has long wondered when she might lose her 40-acre property near the airport for a proposed new highway connecting Harding Place to Interstate 40. "They have moved the road multiple times," said Brown, whose father bought the land she lives on in the 1940s. "They have tied us up for 15 years. As it stands now, the (Elm Hill Pike) interchange is right on my property." That interchange is one of five that would be part of the project to add five miles to Harding Place, which transportation planners say would ease traffic congestion and visitor confusion around Nashville International Airport and provide a shortcut between I-40 in Donelson and Interstate 24 near Antioch. Regional transportation planners first suggested the road about 25 years ago, to the concern of nearby residents. Their opposition has delayed the project, and at a meeting last week several of them implored planners to shift the road three-fourths of a mile toward the airport and away from them. Designs for the road keep changing; they may again. No work has started, and the state said Friday it couldn't provide a total cost estimate. Previous reports indicate about $10 million is available for the segment from Murfreesboro Pike to Couchville Pike. Joe Carpenter, assistant chief engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said his department, along with Metro government, the airport authority and the Federal Aviation Administration, would listen to all concerns. "This is an extremely large and complex project for the state as far as projects go," Carpenter said. "Some residents had a desire to cancel the project altogether and put the money into existing infrastructure. We'll consider all the comments." 5 interchanges planned Along with the regional, federally authorized Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization, state and local officials for years have debated about what roads and details should be included in the project. As it stands now, a new road would run from the Harding Place-Donelson Pike intersection south of the airport to I-40 near the Elm Hill Pike overpass. Donelson Pike through the airport property also would be relocated and straightened, to cut down on blind spots on curves for motorists headed in and out of the airport. The road is heavily traveled, including by out-of-towners unfamiliar with the area. Proposed designs call for five interchanges, including the new road's tie-in to I-40 and a major reworking of the current Donelson Pike/I-40 junction. TDOT says about 36,000 vehicles a day travel Donelson Pike at that interchange, which handles both through and airport-bound traffic. Some want road moved Metro Councilman Carl Burch, whose district includes the proposed extension area, said he believes the concept for the new road is a good one. But he wants the road moved. "We need that artery to get from Harding Place to Interstate 40," Burch said. "I think it will relieve a lot of traffic from Bell Road and Donelson Pike. It's a good project if the road is moved to the west." TDOT would have to consult with and get approval from the FAA to move the road 4,000 feet closer to the airport, as residents suggested at last week's meeting. Airport spokeswoman Emily Richard said airport officials are not involved in the decision-making process for the project. "Harding Place extension is not our project, and we are not pushing this," Richard said. "Our long-range plan calls for a fourth parallel runway, though there are no plans for it at this point." The FAA would be involved to make sure safety provisions are followed because the road, if moved west, would be close to that proposed runway, she said. Residents wary of road Meanwhile, Louan Brown and other residents wait for the road to be built or abandoned. Brown grew up on the property that fronts Elm Hill Pike south of I-40. Her parents taught her how to raise cattle and care for horses on the farm, where she now lives with her husband and two children. She has been going door to door with an aerial map of the project to alert residents that this project will come if they do not make their concerns heard. Brown's campaign, which includes a large sign in her front yard, has attracted attention from neighbors, some of whom did not know they could be living next to a major roadway. Paula Gowen, who has lived along Elm Hill Pike since 1986, drove up to Brown's home one day last week and asked, "Where's this road going to be?" Gowen shook her head at the thought of living sandwiched between I-40 and another major artery. "This is in my backyard," Gowen said. "That's depressing. I've got enough noise already." Brown said she is not giving up and will continue to speak out against the project. "I am not going away," said an emotional Brown, who grew teary over the prospect of losing her father's hard-earned land. "My entire life has been out here. I'm not stopping."

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