East Nashvillians fear business impact of I-24 weekend closures

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 7:36pm

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s $8.7 million construction project on Interstate 24 near downtown Nashville will no doubt provide much-needed repairs for the 1961-era bridges that cross over Woodland and Main streets.

But many East Nashville business owners fear a stark reality: For 13 weekends beginning Friday, TDOT officials plan to close I-24 in both directions from the I-24/I-65 split north of downtown to the I-24/I-40 split east of downtown. That stretch includes the key access points to and from many neighborhoods to the east of the Cumberland River.

And one of the weekends the interstate is slated for closure is perhaps East Nashville’s busiest –– the weekend of Saturday, Aug. 11, when the annual Tomato Arts Festival at the 5Points district is expected to draw tens of thousands.

“As businesses, we’re worried that the people who come in from outside of East Nashville are going to have a lot of trouble getting in,” said Tom Hadley, president of the Historic East Nashville Merchant’s Association, who operates East Side Smiles, a dental office on Main Street.

“If you start thinking about it, what would be the business that people would come in from outside of the zip code on the weekend?” Hadley said. “That’s our restaurants, and our restaurants are one of the biggest draws. Some of them depend on out-of-the-area business.”

A public meeting to address concerns and explain East Nashville detours is set for 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 18 at the East Park Community Center. TDOT officials, area Metro Council members, and representatives of the merchant’s association and Rediscover East! are among those expected to attend.

“The concern is access to East Nashville during the course of the bridge repairs, and how both residents, visitors and businesses will be able to get through the process as best as possible,” said District 6 Councilman Peter Westerholm, who represents some of the most affected East Nashville neighborhoods.

“There’s going to be a lot of frustration and a lot of congestion at a lot of places,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone is trying to talk about this, and hopefully use it as an opportunity to highlight and promote East Nashville to say, ‘We are still open for business.’ ”

After construction kicks off Friday evening, the stretch of Interstate 24 is slated to close for 13 weekends (weather permitting) until the project is complete on Aug. 31. TDOT has designated four weekends during that span when the interstate won’t be closed: April 27-29 for the County Music Marathon; May 25-28 for Memorial Day weekend; June 7-10 for the CMA Music Festival; and June 22-24 for a concert at LP Field.

This summer, Hadley sees only a few viable entrances to East Nashville during weekends when the interstate is closed: Detour off the Second Avenue interstate exit, navigate through downtown and cross the Gateway Bridge onto Shelby Street; exit onto Trinity Lane from Interstate 24; or enter East Nashville via Briley Parkway and Ellington Parkway.

TDOT spokeswoman Deanna Lambert said the department is aware of East Nashvillians’ wariness of the project. “Some of the businesses are concerned about business being lost over the summer,” she said.

Lambert said Wednesday’s meeting designed to explain the project to the community and “work with them to alleviate some of their fears.” She said TDOT has already agreed to place additional signs to indicate street detours to and from East Nashville.

Though the Interstate 24 stretch near downtown will be closed at most points, TDOT has created a map to highlight a few on ramps that are accessible. The map [which can be viewed here] references three routes:

• Motorists traveling on Shelby Avenue to I-24West will turn unto South Fifth Street and will continue on Spring Street to the I-24W on ramp. The I-24 East on-ramp will remain open.

• Motorists traveling on Jefferson Street and North 1st Street to I-24 East will take North 1st Street, and then turn left onto Woodland Street to the I-24 East on-ramp. The I-24 West on-ramp will remain open.

Road closures

• Shelby St. will remain open and provide access across the Cumberland River, only the Shelby St. on-ramps to I-24 West will be closed.

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9 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 4/17/12 at 5:39

East Nashville is pretty inaccessible anyway. We still need a car bridge connecting Donelson and East Nashville, to match the greenway bridge.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/18/12 at 6:14

This will have an affect on my dinner plans at Margos and Eastland Cafe. This will increase my dinner plans at the Germantown Cafe (Germantown) and the City House.

Of course there is always Sperrys and Flemings.

By: tardistraveler on 4/18/12 at 8:02

Seems no one ever seems to think about the impact on East Nashville residents. Those of us who live in East Nashville are very dependent on the bridges, and this renders two of them partially out of commission, and will increase the traffic congestion on the others.

When there's an event at LP Field, it's a nightmare to get across town. I just normally ride out to Briley Parkway and go that way, which is WAY out of the way usually, but at least I can get through! If you go through downtown, sometimes you're routed ways you do NOT want to go, and it might take an hour to navigate things and get going the way you DO want to go!

By: Kosh III on 4/18/12 at 8:36

If they open it for the Titans, why not keep it open for the Tomato Festival?

By: RTungsten on 4/18/12 at 8:38

Uh, WickedTribe...we already have that. It is called Briley Parkway. Has the big 'ole bride for cars that you are wanting. Get off on Gallatin Rd, turn left and drive until you feel hipsters staring at you.

By: PKVol on 4/18/12 at 8:42

Seems hard to believe that both bridges (Woodland and Main) need to be closed each weekend. The big deal is that I-65 and I-40 will both become parking lots unless I-440 and Briley Parkway are utilized as detour routes.

By: Marymeet on 4/18/12 at 9:44

I live at Shelby Street and 5th Av and am starting a new job on April 30th. What fun!

By: Left-of-Local on 4/20/12 at 8:47

ANNNNND what have we learned, folks?

There should have been BRIDGES BUILT to replace the ferries all those years ago. The flawed logic of the federal highway is showing its ugly head now. That and the over investment in bending over for Gaylord's highway, Briley.

Gee, this whole thing would be fine if only you could zip over the McGavock or Two Rivers bridge into East Nashville....

By: JudgeRoyBean on 4/20/12 at 9:27

And where would that bridge go once it crossed the river? Through Shelby Bottoms? Not likely. Traffic would somehow have to be dumped into the Rosebank neighborhood, I suppose. I don't think I'd care for that. I think part of the appeal of some of our neighborhoods in East Nashville is (or was) that you had to want to be here.
And yeah tardistraveler, I've had to use the Briley Beltway too, because of LP events. Just not worth the trouble to go through town.