By JOHN MCBRYDE
Between the one-liners having to do with how long it has taken to get the project under way, Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer joined state and local officials in Franklin Tuesday morning to break ground on the Mack Hatcher Northwest Quadrant that will connect Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 West.
The $45 million project includes a new two-lane roadway from Hillsboro Road to Highway 96 on the west side of Franklin with a 12-foot wide multi-use path and half-mile long bridge that spans the bend in the Harpeth River around Brownland Farm. Construction should start in early 2019 and is expected to be completed in September 2021.
Under a partially sunny sky and cool temperatures, Haslam, Schroer and others took to the podium and made the groundbreaking feel like a true celebration. The extension, after all, has been anticipated for years and has become more urgent over time as growth, including the Westhaven subdivision, blossoms along Hwy. 96 West.
“A lot of people thought that when I became commissioner of Transportation, … this would be the first
project that we did,” said Schroer, a resident of Franklin who served as the city’s mayor before assuming his current position eight years ago. “And it turns out, it’s the last project that I’m doing. This will be my last ribbon cutting as commissioner, and it’s very apropos that it’s here.”
Nearly all of the speakers at the groundbreaking made reference to how long the project has taken to get started.
Haslam said that when he was campaigning for governor the first time, “I kept coming [to Williamson County] and hearing, ‘What are you going to do about Mack Hatcher?’ Well, true confession, I thought Mack Hatcher was a person that was in trouble.”
From state Rep. Sam Whitson, 65th District: “It’s often said that the Battle of Franklin might have turned out different if this was done on time. … I also want to recognize what our city leaders have done basically since the Eisenhower administration to get this going.”
When Franklin Mayor Ken Moore came to the podium, he threw up his arms and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas, Franklin! Santa Claus has come early!
“Nobody can remember how long this has been ranked No. 1 on our project list. When I came into office in 2007, it was definitely still No. 1. And we felt highly committed because we’ve invested heavily in this project with our own money to make sure it gets done.
Moore later indicated to the Franklin Home Page how all of Franklin can feel a sense of relief that this project is finally seeing daylight.
“It feels like we’re finally going to get a road done that we’ve planned on for a long, long time,” Moore said. “You know, most roads take about 10 years, and this one has taken longer. But we appreciate that it has now been funded and the bids have been awarded, and we’re ready to move on.”
The catalyst for moving this project forward was the passage of the IMPROVE Act in 2017. It resulted in a 6-cent-per-gallon increase on gas sales, but also allowed for cutting grocery sales taxes statewide by $125 million. Its passage means that over the next few years the state will see a significant influx of revenue to be used for funding close to 1,000 road projects, and that, of course, included funding for the extension of Mack Hatcher.
“We wouldn’t have been here today if it weren’t for the passing of the Improve Act,” Haslam said. “It would have happened, but it would have been some years down the road.”
Eutaw Construction had the lowest bid and is the contractor for the project.