State Route 840 ribbon cutting opens long-awaiting connection
By Carole Robinson, Staff Writer
Four of the six governors who have held office during the planning and construction of State Route 840 – Gov. Don Sundquist, Gov. Winfield Dunn, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam – speak about the more than 40 years from the time the idea came about through the 26 years of construction until the final leg of the road was opened Friday, Nov. 2.
A ceremony for the long-awaited opening of State Route 840 between Thompson’s Station and Fairview was held near the Carters Creek Pike interchange Friday morning – complete with three former governors and one currently holding the office – Winfield Dunn, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Don Sundquist and Gov. Bill Haslam – several state commissioners including four former state Department of Transportation commissioners and members of the General Assembly.
A backdrop of sunny skies highlighting fall colors along rolling hills added to the celebratory ribbon cutting, speeches, music and barbeque that marked the grand opening of the road with the official public drive-on later in the day.
After 26 years filled with controversy, litigation and budgetary constraints, the 14-mile section from US 31 (Columbia Pike) to SR 46 (Pinewood Road) completes the 78-mile southern route around Nashville that runs through five counties from I-40 in Wilson County to I-40 in Dickson County.
The cost of the project that began with Gov. Winfield Dunn’s vision of an interstate quality route around Nashville that would open up rural areas, is $750 million. Gov. Dunn’s vision was included in the 1975-1995 Tennessee Highway System Plan.
“I’ve heard it said people have spent their entire careers on SR 840,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said in jest. “It’s been rumored children born [during that time] are now working on 840.”
During the process of building the road, “Friendships developed and TDOT changed the way we do business,” Schroer continued. “We now build partnerships in the community. We do not want to build a road in a community that doesn’t want one.”
State Road 840 emerged from the vision and became a testimony to the cooperation and support of six governors – two Democrat and four Republican and a number of General Assemblies.
“We’re standing on the threshold of great change in our country,” said Gov. Dunn. “No state stands more poised to be a contributor to quality of life in America than the State of Tennessee.”
U.S. Senator and former Gov. Lamar Alexander brought Gov. Dunn’s idea to life with passage of The Better Roads Program in 1986 naming the route a Bicentennial Parkway.
“In 1985 or so I was spending time with General Motors to get Saturn,” Alexander said. “With Nissan and Saturn the auto industry was moving here and I saw thousands – tens of thousands – of jobs with suppliers, but to recruit suppliers we needed good roads. The Better Roads Program was all about jobs. It passed the Assembly by one vote. The new system impacts 85 of our 95 counties and now we have the best roads in the United States.”
With the support of Gov. Ned McWhorter, the first project in the construction of SR 840, a section from Stewarts Ferry Pike to Interstate 40 in Wilson County was let to contract. That section opened in August 1995.
Like all roads in Tennessee, SR840 was built as a pay-as-you-go road. There is no debt – the road is paid for and it used no federal funds.
“We saved millions of dollars in interest; we have no toll roads and the Tennessee gas tax is 6 cents less than the national average,” Alexander added. “Congratulations to both parties for maintaining the no debt philosophy.”
Coming in on the tail end of the construction, Gov. Haslam signed the last contract for the road.
“It does take a long time to make things move in government,” he said. “We must keep in mind we are dealing with other people’s money. Tennessee has a wonderful history. We have been blessed with people who come together to get things done. Being governor is like being in a relay race – you get the baton from the people in front of you. I got the baton at the end of a really long race with only 50 yards to go.”
SR 840 was built to provide a safer route for truckers around Nashville, for tourism and economic development, the governors said. Before the ribbon was cut, Schroer added. “Tell truckers to use 840 and stay the … out of Nashville.”
Carole Robinson is a staff writer for the Williamson Herald. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Officials cut the ribbon to open the final leg of State Route 840 including Rep. Charles Sargent, Sen. Jim Tracy, former TDOT commissioner Gerald Nicely, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Gov. Bill Haslam and Rep. Sheila Butt.
County Mayor Rogers Anderson, TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, Administrative Assistant Diane Giddens and County Commissioner Betsy Hester
“The Grassland Mafia” – County Mayor Rogers Anderson, former county executive and state representative Clint Callicott and Rep. Charles Sargent. During his tenure as a legislator Callicott fought hard to protect family farms that were being sliced apart to build 840.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and Scott Black, COO for the Housing Authority
Posted on: 11/7/2012