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PHOTO: City documents show the design of the new “diverging diamond” interchange. / Photo courtesy of the city of Spring Hill

By ALEXANDER WILLIS

The long awaited interchange at Buckner Lane and I-65, significantly improving connectivity between Spring Hill and the interstate, will officially begin its first phase after entering an agreement with Volkert Inc. on Monday night. 

During the specially-called meeting Monday night, city leaders also voted to partner with the state on the project, seeing it as the only feasible way to meet the grant’s deadlines.

After the city was awarded a $25 million grant for the project in December, with Spring Hill being the only city in the state to be awarded the grant, as well as being only one of 12 cities in the nation to receive the full amount of $25 million, discussions were immediately put into place between city officials and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).

Originally, Spring Hill city staff were under the impression that in order to utilize the grant money, they would need to enter an agreement with the state by September 20, 2020. After further discussions, it was learned that the city would actually have to be ready for the fifth and final phase of the project, the construction phase, by that date.

Were the city not to be ready for construction by late 2020, the $25 million would be revoked, and the lingering effects of losing the grant would be “devastating,” according to City Administrator Victor Lay. He said if this were to happen, the city would likely never be considered for grant money again.

After learning as much, the city was quick to call the meeting to begin the first phases of development.

The project is ultimately split into five phases; environmental clearance, preliminary engineering, right-of-way design, utility coordination, and lastly, construction. Volkert Inc., a private engineering and environmental consulting firm, was chosen to perform the first two phases of development for approximately $1.4 million. The process is estimated to take around 18 months.

In partnering with TDOT on the project, the city anticipates the next two phases, right-of-way design and utility coordination, to be able to be completed before the deadline of September 20, 2020. After that, the construction phases will finally begin.

The $25 million certainly puts a dent in the cost of the project, but it’s total cost is still approximately $48 million. Mayor Rick Graham said last month that in order to ensure the project meets its required deadlines, that residents are likely to see a rise in property taxes. He did not specify the amount.

The city voted Monday to enter an agreement that would pay Volkert Inc. a lump sum of $1,345,000 for its environment and preliminary engineering services. It will also pay the firm an additional $55,000 for design services. The design services will be paid for through the city’s traffic impact fee fund.

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