A $1.3 million Jefferson Street streetscape improvement project that officials hope will both beautify and spur development now awaits the approval of an encroachment agreement from the Federal Highway Administration to move forward.
“The preliminary plan and design work is completed,” said Gwen Hopkins-Glascock, spokeswoman for the Metro Public Works Department. “The next step is to secure an encroachment agreement (needed as Metro will plant on TDOT right-of-way). After we get that, we should be ready to advertise for construction bids.”
Metro and TDOT officials announced the multi-phased project — to be called Gateway to Heritage and slated to encompass about one-half mile of area spanning 28th Avenue North on the west to the Jefferson Street Interstate 40 exit ramp on the east — in October 2009. Officials had hoped the project, which will include new landscaping and murals, would start by the end of 2010.
Neither Public Works nor TDOT is describing the project as delayed. However, Hopkins-Glascock said ground might not be moved until late summer or early fall.
“The process involves keeping everyone on board and abreast of the project,” she said. “When you have this many partners and funding requirements, it involves a lot of time and paperwork. We worked with various TDOT entities on the design. Working with JUMP (Jefferson United Merchants Partners), TSU and Meharry on the maintenance agreement.”
Since its 2009 announcement, the project has not moved quickly.
In August 2010, then-TDOT commissioner Gerald Nicely approved Metro’s request. Six months later, TDOT’s Design Division approved final construction plans on March 1, and then the request was sent to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) the next day.
“Once we receive concurrence [agreement] from FHWA, TDOT will proceed with the preparation of the license agreement and circulate for appropriate signatures,” said B.J. Doughty, TDOT spokeswoman.
Doughty said the project’s timeline is not unusual.
“To put it in perspective, federally funded transportation enhancement projects, regardless of complexity, typically consist of two to three years of preliminary engineering/design work which are necessary to obtain the state and federal authorizations required prior to receiving a “Notice to Proceed” with construction,” she said.
Gulch-based landscape architecture firm EDGE Planning, Landscape Architecture and Graphic Design is handling design work.
The unveiling of the plan in October 2009 came more than one year after then-Gov. Phil Bredesen announced a $640,000 transportation enhancement grant. In September 2009, Metro selected EDGE as the project’s design consultant.
The enhancements will be funded through TDOT, with matching funds from Metro.