Location 2000 2008
I-40 @ Hwy. 231 44,420 50,044
I-40 from Hwy. 109 54,950 60,963to Mt. Juliet
Hwy. 231 North 6,020 6,585@ Trousdale line
Hwy. 109 14,050 16,792@ Sumner line
SR 840 11,330 12,896@ Lebanon
North Mt. Juliet Rd. 17,040 20,133@ Hwy. 70This aerial photograph possibly taken in the 1940s looks toward the north of Lebanon. Seen in the photo is the Highland Heights School, part of which was converted in the 1990s to the Wilson County Criminal Justice Complex and the historic Pickett Chapel which will one day become the new home of the Roy Bailey African American History Center. The roadways have changed significantly since this photo was taken, accommodating many more vehicles. By SAM HATCHERThe Wilson Post
Growth has brought more traffic and the increase in traffic is causing alarming concern about long commutes, the safety of local roads and highways and the impact these issues are having on the lives of those living in Wilson County.
In the year 2000 the population for Wilson County was reported at 88,809.
In just eight years Wilson County grew by almost 25 percent in size adding some 21,000 new residents. The 2008 census reported Wilson County’s population at 109,803.
For a perspective on how fast Wilson County is growing one only has to look at the growth rate for the state of Tennessee over this same eight-year period. While Wilson County grew at almost 25 percent, Tennessee’s growth was measured at just over 9 percent.
The census data makes a strong case for Wilson County being one of Tennessee’s fastest growing counties and likewise one of the South’s.
But with the increase in population comes a major increase in traffic woes.
Wilson County has been fortunate in recent years to receive the benefit of a number of highway improvements.
The county has seen Highway 70 from Lebanon to the intersection of Highway 109 widened to five lanes; a stretch of Hwy. 70 from just east of Mt. Juliet widened to five lanes all the way to the Davidson County line; the construction of interstate connector route 840; I-40 near Mt. Juliet has been widened and improved to accommodate the Providence shopping center; new interstate exchanges have been added in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet including the new Beckwith Road exit; and other road construction projects have been completed.
And there are also a number of projects either under construction now or on the drawing board to include the widening of Hwy. 109; the widening of Mt. Juliet Road; and the recently completed extension and widening of Hartmann Drive in Lebanon.
Despite the continuing development of new roads and road improvement projects, traffic congestion is still a problem.
Public officials recognize that growth in population, particularly the addition of new residential roof tops, may be the key factor to attracting new retail and therefore more local sales tax dollars to help fund local government, but they also realize that with growth comes more headaches. One major headache being what growth is doing to elevate issues about overcrowded roadways.
Traffic counts jumped significantly on many major local thoroughfares between 2000 and 2008.
The traffic count on an already busy I-40 between Mt. Juliet and the Lebanon/Hwy. 109 exit increased from 54,950 vehicles in 2000 to almost 60,963 in 2008.
State Route 840 at the point of entry just west of Lebanon saw an increase in traffic from 11,330 vehicles in 2000 to 12,896 in 2008.
And even at the Trousdale County line on U.S. Highway 231 North there was a reported increase in traffic during the eight year period from 6,020 vehicles in 2000 to 6,585 in 2008.
At the intersection of North Mt. Juliet Road and U.S. Hwy. 70 the traffic count went from 17,040 in 2000 to 20,133 in 2008.
The growth in population is showing up on the roadways.
Adding 6,000 additional vehicles to traffic along the I-40 corridor between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet is a considerable bump.
Area officials including Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, other elected officials and many in the private sector are beginning look for answers and solutions to what they believe will be future traffic problems that can deter the region’s opportunity to prosper.
Craighead and others driving this effort believe the region needs a well developed plan. Part of the plan can be a commuter rail system and a second part may be a broader and more thoroughly developed mass transit strategy.
Wilson and Davidson counties have been the first in Middle Tennessee to experiment with commuter rail, although there are plans to introduce light rail or commuter rail lines to other nearby communities.
The Music City Star, which takes commuters daily between Lebanon and Nashville, has seen a rise in popularity in recent months with average daily ridership topping 850 as recently as January. As gas prices spike higher, ridership is expected to continue grow.
Officials generally agree that traffic and the congestion that traffic causes is of major concern.
They see it as a quality of life issue for those who live not only in Wilson County but across Middle Tennessee.
It’s an issue that must be addressed sooner than later.
CEO Sam Hatcher may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.