NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It was the biggest job announcement in state history.
With Oracle's pledge to bring 8,500 jobs to Nashville and make a $1.2 billion investment in the River North development, Gov. Bill Lee has prioritized a major road project to accommodate the plan.
In a list of 22 projects just released, he's appropriating $40 million for the Oracle project. The plan calls for the Tennessee Department of Transportation to raise Interstate 24, creating an underpass, extending Cleveland St below the interstate to reach River North. The road currently dead-ends at Dickerson Road.
The plan also calls for a pedestrian tunnel from Grace Street under the interstate to allow people and bikes to safely cross, connecting the Cleveland Park and McFerrin Park neighborhoods in East Nashville to the future site.
"It's going to be really critical for that access to be safe and done correctly," said TDOT spokesperson Rebekah Hammonds. "It’s a huge development for Nashville, which of course in turn we know how Nashville can impact the region. So there are going to be a lot of people trying to get in and out of that development. If we don’t protect citizens' safety while trying to cross the interstate, we're going to have a lot of problems on our hands."
It's one of 22 projects the governor has prioritized statewide in the one-time appropriation in his budget totaling more than $626 million.
Half of the projects on the list are located in Middle Tennessee.
Others include Interstate 40 in Bellevue, where the plan calls for widening the interstate near McCrory Lane from two to three lanes in each direction. Crews would also replace the bridge over McCrory Lane.
"That’s such a busy area and the fact that the interstate is only two lanes — three lanes is going to be a massive improvement," said Hammonds.
In Rutherford County, the I-24 Epps Mill Road interchange would get extensions for the ramps, new signals and a slight shift in the roadway.
In Gallatin, on Vietnam Veterans Boulevard (386), crews would widen the highway to three lanes in each direction near Hwy 109. The plan also calls for making the Long Hollow Pike intersection a full, highway interchange.
Several rural interchanges along I-40 would get an upgrade, with crews widening the roads leading to the interstate, re-working the interchange and allowing for more traffic flow, including:
- I-40 at SR 56 in Putnam County
- I-40 at SR 48 in Dickson County
- I-40 at SR50 in Hickman County
- I-40 at SR 13 in Humphreys County
- I-40 at SR 69 in Decatur County
"A lot of times a developer or businesses will approach a county or city and say we want to put this in, but this interchange or state route might not support the traffic volume we would bring in, Hammonds said. "A lot of times there needs to be an access road or widening job or interchange improvement in order to facilitate and handle that growth."
If the budget that includes the funding is approved, it could still take several years for the projects to get underway.