Trace smoothes the way for historically sensitive projects
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Car and bike riders will eventually travel a bit smoother down Old Natchez Trace Road, one of the most coveted scenic spots in Williamson County.
County Commissioners approved $125,000 to serve as partial funding of a repaving project that will make the aging historic roadway safer and smoother.
Many parts of the paved roadway are currently in disrepair, proving rough on car and bike tires and unsafe for drivers in some spots. Also, an aging bridge between Temple and Moran roads, unable to be salvaged, will also be reconstructed with new materials to increase safety.
Last spring, stakeholders fought to protect the historical road, pleading with government officials to treat the project sensitively due to its rich historical context dating back to the 1800’s. The original unpaved pathway was created by the Mississippian Native Americans, which served as an important trade link for centuries. An early Native American civilization even thrived in the Old Town area off the road between 900 and 1400 A.D.
Historic preservationists spoke out last fall against widening the road, fearing that artifacts might be disturbed and the historic, rural character of nearby National Register properties might be diminished.
“It’s a victory for everyone. We are all on the same side in preserving Old Natchez Trace. It’s truly a national treasure, and it is being treated with respect,” Laura Turner reported previously, who serves as a spokesperson for Citizens for Old Natchez Trace.
“We just want a comforting quilt of asphalt,” Turner said.
After meetings with stakeholders and the highway commission, Collier Engineering Company, Inc. along with consultants Hawkins Partners, Inc., conducted numerous studies taking the road’s historical context into consideration during the concept-planning phase of the project. The concept plan includes maintaining the road’s narrow characteristic shape in the four-mile stretch from Old Hillsboro Road to Sneed Road.
The road ranges in width from about 16 feet to 25 feet along the winding corridor, which will be configured to a universal 19-20 feet along the path, according to the improvement plans.
“We didn’t go by normal engineering standards [a measurement of about 22 feet for roads] for the project due to its historical context. It would’ve been detrimental if we did,” said Chad Collier of Collier Engineering.
The company will present design drawings to the Williamson County Highway Commission in March when a project timeline will be set.
The gentle paving of the Old Natchez Trace road could smooth the way for future historically sensitive projects.
“This is a game-changer,” Commissioner Mary Brockman, District 9, said. “These are plans that will give historical sensitivity to the project.”
“The fact that the road will be restored and kept at 20 ft. wide down a narrow, scenic historical road is a new way of thinking, instead of cutting trees and widening a road.”
Todd Kaestner, District 9, agrees, and both commissioners added that the project presents some cost savings compared to the original plan of widening the road.
“The project actually costs less money than a wider more modern road,” Todd Kaestner said.
“By not increasing the width, it has decreased the cost. Plans to keep the road narrow also helps with keeping traffic at a slower pace.”
Posted on: 2/13/2014