Project brightens Mt. Juliet interchange
With eyes on the dark sky and after a group countdown, a flip of the switch lit 12 LED mast lights at the Mt. Juliet interchange Tuesday night.
It was an official "lighting ceremony," the result of a years-long project to make the intersection safer and also transform that area into a beacon to attract citizens to the Mt. Juliet Providence area that is a regional shopping and dining destination.
Along with the dozen interstate lights, the interchange bridge over the interstate also lit up with six new lights.
This ceremony was on the eve of an announcement from the state comptrollers office that Wilson County is one of the country's top fastest growing counties, and growing in double digits. Mt. Juliet is the largest city in Wilson County.
It was quite a gathering for the nighttime ceremony. State Rep. Susan Lynn joined Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and City Commissioners Brian Abston and Art Giles, as well as Vice Mayor James Maness. Many citizens came out to celebrate the long anticipated $718,000 project with the cost split between the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the city.
"We kicked in a little bit more so we could get the LED lights, which will save us a lot of money in the end because they are so much more efficient," Hagerty noted.
After the ceremony City Deputy Public Works Director Andrew Barlow explained the city wanted to upgrade the lights from high infusion to LED, at a cost of $30,000. He said that upgrade will save the city about $15,000 per year on electricity and pay itself off in a couple of years.
"What you see here today you will never see again, it will never be dark again," Martin said just before the lights were turned on. "This has been in the works for years. This is the first fully LED light interchange in the state of Tennessee."
Barlow also addressed the crowd that met in the former Ruby Tuesday restaurant parking lot to witness the celebratory lighting. He said he took over the project when he was hired at the city. However, Martin lauded Barlow in his efforts to finalize the project and spearhead it to its conclusion.
"This certainly is a first for the state," Barlow said. Barlow said the lighting "will improve vehicular and pedestrian safety tenfold, which is something we can't put a price tag on."
Stansell Electric installed the lights.
"They are placed about one-half mile before the intersection and one-half mile after," said Stansell Vice President Bobby Gains.
Hagerty noted the "project has been complex."
"A lot of people have worked to make this happen," he said. "There are two things that make this really big. The first is safety. We are ranked the No. 4 safest city in the state. When you have a lit interchange it makes it safer."
Mt. Juliet is also ranked Tennessee's most family-friendly city in Tennessee.
"We are a true edge city of Nashville now," Hagerty said. "I knew it was something when my wife and I were traveling toward Mt. Juliet and she saw all the lights and she said 'wow, now that is a true city.'"
Martin said the lights have been "tested" each night for a couple of weeks and comments on social media have been "very positive and excited."
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.