Mt. Juliet city commissioners gave the green light Monday night to widen the bridge over Interstate 40 near Providence to fix the congestion problem.
Mt. Juliet Deputy Public Works Director Andy Barlow said the current traffic pattern from Exit 226B northbound over the bridge was a "major traffic nightmare."
"There are two dedicated lanes northbound, but really there is one lane," Barlow said, referring to the fact if motorists don't maneuver to the far right lane the "second lane" will end up taking them off the bridge and onto I-40.
Monday commissioners nodded a resolution to approve an agreement with Gresham-Smith for the design of the widening of the Mt. Juliet Road overpass at I-40. The redesign will widen the bridge to include two continuous northbound lanes over the interstate. In addition, multimodal connectivity will be built into the project to provide a connection to both sides of the interstate.
"Now, people take their life in their own hands, so a separate bike lane is needed," Barlow told commissioners.
There will also be a pedestrian light feature and some "decorative" elements. The original estimated cost for the project was around $4 million, however that may be reduced. Barlow said they had plans to shoot for "zero right-of-way costs."
Commissioners in a 4-0 vote (Commissioner Ray Justice absent) approved the resolution and told Barlow to make the important phone call Tuesday to jumpstart the project. Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty commended Barlow for "thinking outside the box" on this project by recommending widening the west side of Mt. Juliet Road, rather than the east.
"This will make it less expensive and was innovative," Hagerty said.
Child safety simulator to be purchased
In other business, commissioners approved an ordinance to amend the fiscal 2015/2016-budget ordinance to accept donations and appropriate funds to acquire a child passenger seat-training simulator.
Fire Chief Jamie Luffman said two firefighters are certified to install child restraint seats. He said two businesses in the community donated $1,500 and he wants to use the money to enhance the installation program.
"Last year we performed 200 seat installations," Luffman said. "This money will help us purchase a lightweight simulator seat, and we can use it a various places to instruct mothers and fathers how to properly install their childrens' seats."
City Manager Kenneth Martin introduced the resolution and noted the extensive training for firefighters and police officers is a week long. Mt. Juliet Police Department Chief James Hambrick said "it was amazing how often installation is not done correctly," and this will help improve this. He also advised people to always replace child restraints seats if they had been involved in any manner of car accidents.
"They can get cracks and weaken and people should dispose of them," he said.
BPAC to apply for sidewalk grant
In more business, City Commissioner Art Giles said he was excited about the Mt. Juliet Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee's pursuit to obtain the Safe Route to Schools Grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. He invited the public to come to come to City Hall at 5:30 p.m. to learn about the grant.
"This is about the safety of our children," he said. "We need a safe route to school."
The grant funds would go to construct a sidewalk from Elzie Patton Elementary to connect with the existing sidewalk on Woodvale Street. Giles emphasized it is a 100-percent funded grant with no matching city funds needed. Giles is the head of BPAC and said the committee is currently filling out the grant.
"We are hoping and praying we get the grant, and Thursday night we'd love people to come down and sign a card that shows support."
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.