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U.S. 31/S.R. 6 (Main Street/Columbia Pike), running through the center of Spring Hill, is a state roadway and our city's most congested thoroughfare as it provides direct access to a busy commercial corridor. City and State officials have long recognized the critical need to widen U.S. 31, due to the continuing growth in our area. However, U.S. 31 is among the 966 state projects throughout Tennessee that make up the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)'s current $6 billion project backlog, as annual gas tax funding for roads remains limited. Meanwhile, Governor Haslam announced in January 2017 that he will ask the State Legislature to increase the gas tax by 7 cents per gallon on gasoline and 12 cents on diesel, which would bring in an additional $39 million for Tennessee cities annually, about $348,000 of which would come to Spring Hill. The governor also has proposed a $5 increase on passenger vehicles and a $20 increase for heavy trucks for license tag renewals, along with a new $100 electric vehicle fee, to help with statewide transportation costs.
The City has been working for years with TDOT in an effort to widen U.S. 31. In February 2016, the widening project was placed in the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)'s 2016-2040 Cost Feasible Plan to widen the road from two to five lanes from Buckner Road to Miles Johnson Parkway. Having the project placed in the MPO's main planning document was a major step in ensuring its future construction. However, an exact project timeline remains unknown at this time.
With the project on the MPO's radar, the City began in 2016 working with an engineering firm on plans for how U.S. 31 could be widened to five lanes without the potentially prohibitive expensive right-of-way costs that were initially projected, in order to make it a more feasible project for the state to begin. Through that engineering work, the City proposed a five-lane cross section, but with narrower than standard lanes (10-foot lanes instead of 12-foot lanes). Sidewalks will be accounted for on the frontage road system that parallels U.S.31 that the City is requiring to be constructed as development occurs. (The frontage road will be like what already exists with Wall Street, or through the Belshire area, where there’s a street that meanders parallel to U.S. 31). This new plan will be exponentially more affordable, which makes the project much more feasible to the state.
TDOT has generally concurred with the City's preliminary concept for U.S. 31. City officials, with the intention of expediting the project, will consider putting city taxpayer funds toward it in the next city budget cycle, when city staff and the Transportation Advisory Committee will be asking the BOMA to appropriate money for the first phase, the environmental study. That study, required by the state, is roughly estimated at about $500,000. The City expects to receive about $400,000 in state transportation funds to put toward that study, leaving roughly about $100,000 of city budget funds to put toward the initial environmental study. If the results of the study do not turn up any significant environmental issues, the next step would be acquiring the right-of-way property for the widening.