After an official start earlier this year, the Mack Hatcher Northwest Extension project is well underway.
State Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, invited government officials and prominent members of the community to tour the construction site with some of the key project workers. Members from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and Eutaw Construction Company led the tour, providing an update on the project’s progress.
TDOT Regional Operations Engineer Shay Deason said the team is working right on schedule — perhaps even ahead.
“Eutaw has been in here working really quick with us,” Deason said, adding that the projected completion date for the extension is November of 2021. “We’re hoping to come in a little ahead on that. It looks like things are progressing good, so hopefully we don’t run into any major issues.”
Whitson commended the team’s hard work, explaining that the project was made possible by a piece of legislation passed in 2017.
“This team right here is focused on serving the public of Tennessee, and I’m so proud to work with them,” he said. “You’re seeing the positive impact of the IMPROVE Act that was past a few years ago.”
The IMPROVE Act raised the gas tax rate to provide additional funding for road improvements, reaching over $1 million in additional funds.
This money is helping to fund this $45 million project, which will extend Mack C. Hatcher Memorial Parkway about 3.1 miles from its intersection with Hillsboro Road beyond Del Rio Pike and state Route 96 and into the Westhaven area. The extension also includes a multi-use path spanning the entire length of the project and a bridge passing over the Harpeth River.
This is one step towards completing a loop around the city, which will require another similar project in the southwest region of Franklin.
“This has been an important project — the No. 1 for Franklin — for a long, long time,” Mayor of Franklin Ken Moore said. “It’s been so long I can’t remember.”
In fact, discussion about creating this full loop has been circulating among government officials and community members for decades, and funds finally came together for this first step, allowing for the approval of the project in late 2018.
The project is split into two phases. The first will complete the multi-use path, extend Mack Hatcher with a two-lane road and provide a single bridge crossing over the Harpeth. The second phase will add a second bridge, since the Harpeth creates a U-shape and requires two crossing points, and expand the road extension to four lanes — five lanes in some areas.
The first bridge uses about $16 million of the full $45 million allotted for the project, according to TDOT Regional Director of Operations Mike Brown, and will be about half a mile long.
To keep traffic moving along, the speed limit in this area will be 45 miles per hour, and there will be a traffic light where the extended Mack Hatcher intersects with Del Rio Pike near Old Charlotte Pike.
TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges said the area near Del Rio in particular is ideal for both future development and allowing an easy flow of traffic.
“We have decisions we make to design a road — do you build a road where you have a lot of development along it, or do you build it to have a lot of movement of traffic? And this road here — we kind of split the difference,” he said.
“There’s no driveways on this road, but there’s intersections and public roads. … One of the things that the city leaders talked about was they wanted a facility to move traffic from the west side back over to the east side.”
One of the team’s areas of focus at the moment is on Old Charlotte Pike by Franklin Christian Academy, where they are finishing up utilities work. Deason said those involved with the academy need not worry, though, as they are trying to work around the school as the fall semester approaches.
“We’ve had a good relationship with the Christian school here,” he said. “They’ve worked with us real’ well. We’re trying to keep all traffic off of them as much as possible, … especially when school is in.”
Find out more about the project at tn.gov/tdot/projects.