By JOHN McBRYDEIn what may be the most celebrated roadway opening in Tennessee history, Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials and dignitaries cut the ribbon Friday morning to usher in the full 78 miles of the southern loop of State Route 840.
In what may be the most celebrated roadway opening in Tennessee history, Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials and dignitaries cut the ribbon Friday morning to usher in the full 78 miles of the southern loop of State Route 840.
“This is a milestone for the state of Tennessee,” said John Schroer, commissioner of the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation who led off a series of speakers at the event held on 840 just west of the Carters Creek Pike interchange.
“It’s been a long project,” he added. “Some (TDOT employees) have spent their entire careers on State Route 840, and there was a story that said some children were born out here and now they’re working on the project.
“We have to have some humor in the fact that it has taken a little longer than we would have liked.”
The final 12 miles, which stretch from Highway 31 at Thompson’s Station to Pinewood Road near Leipers Fork in Williamson County, serve as an exclamation point on a project that has taken 26 years and $756 million to complete. The full route runs from Interstate 40 in Wilson County near Lebanon to I-40 in Dickson County, also passing through Rutherford and Hickman counties.
Much of the delay on the final leg came when a group of citizens in the Leipers Fork area fought the roadway due to environmental and quality of life concerns. Issues were resolved, and the stretch was deemed a scenic highway by the Tennessee State Legislature during this year’s session.
“I was at the time a resident of Williamson County and watched with great interest,” said Schroer, who lives in Franklin and was the town’s mayor when he was asked by Gov. Haslam to serve as Transportation commissioner.
“I was proud of the fact that my fellow neighbors were concerned with what went on with the environment here,” Schroer told the crowd. “And in that process, there was a friendship that was found. And from that, TDOT has changed how we do business.”
Also speaking at the event were Haslam and former Tennessee governors Winfield Dunn, Don Sundquist and Lamar Alexander. The project was also moved through under the administrations of Phil Bredesen, who was not able to attend the event, and the late Ned McWherter.
In the crowd of several hundred were state officials, employees and nearby residents.
Don Hazelwood of Franklin and Phil Soholt of Spring Hill rode their Harleys along with about 38 other riders from the Bumpus Hog chapter of the Harley-Davidson shop in Murfreesboro.
“We like to get out for anything having to do with new roads,” said Soholt, who is with Integrity Roofing Services along with Hazelwood. “Plus, it’s a beautiful Friday morning and a great day to be on our bikes.
“This is definitely going to affect my business,” Soholt added. “It’s going to be so much better getting around to a lot of the places where we work.”
All 78 miles of SR 840 were to be officially opened as of 6 p.m. Friday.