The Western Extension of Mack Hatcher is designed and ready for construction, but since TDOT has no guaranteed funding for the immediate future it is hard to tell when the next phase of the roadway will actually begin construction.
The problem that TDOT is facing has to do with federal funding. A press release from the TDOT Communications Office said this:
“The current federal transportation funding bill expires May 31, 2015. If a new bill is not passed by Congress, TDOT could lose funding for the remaining four months of the current fiscal year. This is the same situation that forced the department to delay dozens of projects over the last year.”
Although the City of Franklin has contributed about $5 million to the project, Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway is a project that relies on state and federal funding.
New construction at TDOT is predominantly funded by federal money from the Highway Trust Fund. President Obama signed the bill on Aug. 8, 2014, and it extended federal transportation funding until May 31, 2015. Without the passage of legislation that allows for more transportation funding there would be no way to pay for new construction projects. Basically, TDOT would become a maintenance only department.
“We would love to say we’re gonna start building next month, but of course we can’t do that because we have no idea where our money is going to come from,” said Heather Jensen, TDOT Community Relations Officer.Read More: Mack Hatcher Extension Meeting Thursday
According to Paul Holzen, Franklin’s Director of Engineering, all design and construction plans for the Mack Hatcher project are complete. In the end, the plan is for the parkway to have four lanes and wrap all the way around the city of Franklin in order to alleviate traffic through the downtown area.
The first phase of the Western Extension will build two 12-foot travel lanes and a 10-foot grassed shoulder on either side of the roadway, as well as a 12-foot paved multi-use path. Phase two would build two more 12-foot lanes with a 42-foot raised grass median in between.
At Thursday’s meeting TDOT gave an update on the environmental impact report for the Mack Hatcher extension. Additional traffic in the project area was estimated to cause some noise impacts for some nearby residences. For the Western Extension there will be 97 acres of natural habitat converted to transportation use, with 16 acres of forested scrub/shrub habitat, 74 acres of open field farmland and seven acres of commercial/residential habitat being converted.
Although one endangered species, the Indiana bat, along with six state-listed plants and animals were documented within a four mile radius of the project area, none were seen within the Western Extension area during 2014 ecological surveys.
Without money coming to TDOT from the federal government, though, there is no way to tell right now when the project will be finished or even begin construction.More Franklin news