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The City of Spring Hill is partnering with TDOT to widen Duplex Road (State Route 247), a state roadway, to three lanes (two travel lanes and a center turn lane) with a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on one side and a 9-foot-wide multi-use path on the other. The City is spending nearly $10 million on the design, engineering, the acquisition of 210 pieces of property for the road right-of-way, and for the relocation of utilities. TDOT is projected in Fall 2017 to begin the widening construction, which is estimated to take about 2 1/2 years.
As part of this project, a long-awaited temporary traffic signal was installed in December 2016 at the intersection of Duplex Road and Port Royal Road. After a 21-month process of appraisals and negotiations with multiple property owners, the City acquired property access, with TDOT approval, needed to construct the signal, which is critical to public safety along Duplex Road.
This year, the Duplex widening construction officially went into TDOT’s three-year work plan.
On Sept. 15, 2016, when TDOT Commissioner John Schroer spoke at the Transportation Summit in Franklin, he noted the timeline for new state road construction generally takes about 10 years. The year 2016 made 10 years that the City of Spring Hill has been working toward this project.
The City’s top priority in pursuing right-of-way has been to first secure the ROW needed toinstall temporary traffic signals at any of four key intersections along Duplex Road, including Port Royal Road, Miles Johnson Parkway, Commonwealth Drive and Buckner Lane. Temporary signals will be installed at these intersections as the ROW is acquired.
Duplex Road Project Background
Duplex Road (State Route 247) is a state roadway that runs along much of the southern dividing line between the Maury and Williamson County line dividing Spring Hill. Duplex is a narrow, two-lane road with no shoulders, dropping off at its edges to sharp ditches, creating a dangerous traffic situation for the many residential neighborhoods it serves.
In 2017, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is expected to begin construction to widen the full 3.3 miles of Duplex Road to three lanes (two travel lanes and a center turnlane) from Main Street (U.S. 31) to Interstate 65, with a sidewalk on one side and a bike/multi-use path on the other.
The City of Spring Hill has been in the process of working with TDOT to propel the widening project since 2006, which will include installing long needed traffic signals at the four keyintersections on Duplex (Port Royal Road, Miles Johnson Parkway, Commonwealth Drive andBuckner Lane).
In November 2012, TDOT stated in a letter to the City of Spring Hill that the installation of traffic signals were warranted at these four intersections. The Nashville Metropolitan PlanningOrganization (MPO) did not have Duplex widening on its three-year plan at that time. While continuing to work with the MPO to list the project in its three-year plan, Spring Hill officials began inquiring whether there was a way to quickly secure the property right-of-way needed to install the four badly needed traffic signals in advance of the Duplex widening construction. The City inquired whether it could gain property right of entry, or propose a property rental agreement with landowners. City officials were informed by TDOT that, regardless of the intersections meeting signal warrants, there was no other avenue that could be taken outside of purchasing all of the needed right-of-way to install the poles for the signals, according to the requirements of the federal Uniform Right-of-Way Act.
Whenever federal highway funds are spent on any transportation construction project – which will be the case with the state’s construction of the Duplex widening – it requires following the detailed Uniform Right-of-Way Act, required by the U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration.
To demonstrate the City’s shared commitment to the project, the Spring Hill BOMA agreed to put aside $4 million in city taxpayer funds to pursue the acquisition of the state’s right-of-way that would be needed to install the signals and widen the road. That lengthy process started in late 2014. It required hiring a team of consultants to handle the property acquisitions who must follow a very time-consuming and tedious legal process to acquire each property. This involves having the properties appraised, locating property owners, tracking down lien holders, negotiating a fair market price, taking proposed sale prices to the BOMA for consideration, making an offer to the property owner, following legal steps to purchase and acquire the property, and legally closing on each property sale.
Many times there are a range of complications that can arise with property acquisition, such as not being able to locate an out-of-state owner; not being able to locate the lienholder; the City having to pay to have bank liens released; not being able to come to an agreed upon negotiated sale price; among other complex real estate and legal issues.
With 210 individual properties to acquire, involving over 200 individual property owners, Duplex Road is the state’s largest undertaking by a single municipality.