Transportation planning cycles endure even in federal government shutdown

By Published: January 09, 2019 9:51 PM CT

Transportation planning cycles endure even in federal government shutdown

The ongoing federal government shutdown hasn’t slowed down the emphasis on planning cycles that come well before the federal funding begins to flow for transportation projects.

For the group of city and port commission staff at Beale Street Landing Wednesday evening, it was plans and priorities for transportation projects ranging from bike lanes and pedestrian friendly intersections to long-sought repaving of the roads most used by the heaviest trucks on city streets.

The government acronym for the plan being put together is TIP – transportation improvement program. It’s a three-year cycle in its last year.

The new TIP from 2020 to 2023 is taking shape, overseen by the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, MPO, the regional agency that coordinates and prioritizes the many transportation projects in the Memphis area.

The Downtown gathering was a public meeting that drew more the engineers and administrators than citizens with an opinion.

Potholes and repaving, particularly on Presidents Island, are a priority for Randy Richardson, executive director of the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission and vice president of the Economic Development Growth Engine , or EDGE.

“It’s been a good number of years, 20-plus years,” he said of the repaving cycle for Harbor and Channel Avenues – the two main thoroughfares of Presidents Island and its industrial base.

Harbor is already set for repaving.

“With the heavy trucks and the traffic we have, it takes a beating, particularly in the winter time,” Richardson said of the two roads. “It’s even tougher on Presidents Island because most of the material on Presidents Island is sand fill. The material underneath the road is softer material. In the hot weather in particular, you get a lot of rutting in the asphalt.”

Repaving Jack Carley Causeway – the series of intersections that are the entrance and exit to and from Presidents Island - is the “highest priority,” he said. The city is about to sign the contracts, which lead to an environmental impact study and from there contracts and bidding.

“That’s the one that is in the works already,” Richardson said.

In nearby Pidgeon Industrial Park, the port commission has a longer term $75 million goal of extending Paul Lowery Road to meet Shelby Drive for a second entrance into the industrial park.

“I’ve seen plans going back to the 1970s where there was supposed to be a boulevard going all the way to Pidgeon Industrial Park,” he said.

Funding was secured years ago for such a boulevard that would have gone through T.O. Fuller State Park before the state invested more money in upgrading the park and it became a part of city plans for federal resiliency funding.

Now, such a roadway through the state park would entail environmental studies and the resulting remediation that help to make it a $110 million project.

Instead, Richardson and his staff want to widen the two-lane section of Shelby Drive from Weaver Road into the park to match the five lanes Shelby Drive has before it gets to Weaver.

The city has signed off on $83.2 million in state-funded streetscape improvements to Shelby Drive.

For city bikeway and pedestrian program manager Nicholas Oyler, the recently released 20-year master plan for neighborhood development – Memphis 3.0 – is a big TIP priority.

The development plan is built on a network of 15 “anchors,” or central points, in each of the neighborhoods across the city.

“We’ve been able to identify intersections and kind of little corridors radiating out from those intersections for places where we can knock out a lot of items with one punch,” Oyler said. “We can put in pedestrian safety improvements. We can synchronize the traffic signals. We can repave the streets. We can put in some beautification and landscaping.”

Oyler says while non-vehicular uses have garnered much of the attention in Memphis 3.0, the results can improve the flow of auto traffic.

“It’s not just a pedestrian project. It’s not just a traffic signal or maintenance project,” he said. “It’s kind of taking care of a lot of things at once, which is a more efficient way of going about it.”


Presidents Island Randy Richardson Nicholas Oyler
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.

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