From Post staff reports An $18.5 million state highway improvement project that includes widening Highway 109 to five lanes and building a new bridge for the highway to pass over the train track operated by the Nashville and Eastern Railroad and the Music City Star is to be completed by June 30, 2011, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. TDOT notes the project, which begins just east of I-40 and extends to the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 70 and Hwy. 109 near Lebanon, is just one of several construction jobs designated for the main commuter thoroughfare that runs from State Route 840 to the Kentucky state line just north of Portland. TDOT notes there is considerable other work scheduled for Hwy. 109 including a new bridge to cross the Cumberland River at the Sumner/Wilson County border and four additional projects in Sumner County. Hwy. 109, a direct north/south route between Wilson and Sumner counties, is regarded as a primary commuter route taking traffic to and from I-40. Lebanon’s LoJac Enterprises is the company that has the state contract for the work being completed on the stretch of road between Hwy. 70 and I-40. LoJac President Don Chambers agreed that considerable progress has been made on the portion of construction on Hwy. 109 for which his company is responsible and said that the project is a good example of how growth and other factors continue to require the updating of highway infrastructure. Referring to the Federal Aid Highway Act signed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 and sponsored in the U.S. Senate by the late Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee, Chambers said it was because of this federal legislation that the nation’s interstate system was made possible. More than 50 years ago many of the nation’s interstate highways were built or were being built and because of that many now are in need of repair and improvement, Chambers said. He explained that the idea of the interstate highway system was initiated by Eisenhower from his past experience as a military officer during World War II when he had the opportunity to see first hand the advantages of Germany’s autobahn system. It was from this experience, Chambers said, that Eisenhower developed a plan for a similar highway system in the U.S. The emphasis being placed on road building in the ongoing stimulus package to help bolster the U.S. economy has had a positive impact on LoJac Enterprises and its employees. Although the Hwy. 109 project was awarded before the federal stimulus package was put into place, LoJac has been the recipient of a number of other construction contracts tied to revenue passed down to the state to aid the economy. Chambers says the program is good because it helps put people back to work and serves to help restore or improve the nation’s roadways. He says the end result translates into better transportation and improved safety. For LoJac the increase in work has meant a recall of some 200 to 250 employees laid off by the company late last year. Chambers said the company always has seasonal layoffs during this period but if it hadn’t been for the new business generated by the stimulus package many of these workers would likely not have been called back. He said the company “basically laid off” about half of its work force in December 2008 including all paving crews. So far LoJac, through the state’s low bid process, has been awarded seven stimulus funded contracts for road construction, and that Chambers says is one important reason that his company has been able to put people back to work.