By QUINT QUALLS
As General Motors expands its manufacturing operations and Spring Hill, state officials work to move forward plans to improve transportation in and out of the plant through an expansion of Saturn Parkway.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation plans to extend Saturn Parkway to Beechcroft Road in order to provide a more direct route for truck traffic between the General Motors Spring Hill Manufacturing plant and auto supplier facilities such as Magna, Comprehensive Logistics and Ryder.
The main aim of the project is to create a more direct truck route for GM Spring Hill Manufacturing’s various suppliers along Beechcroft Road. At the moment, the truck travel between the supplier facilities and the GM plant relies on roads like Beechcroft Road and Main Street that have much less capacity than Saturn Parkway.
The state’s $20 million project to extend Saturn Parkway complements a $788 million investment for the GM plant announced in April.
As a part of the investment, GM announced last week it had broken ground on an expansion of its engine plant. In addition, on Tuesday GM announced it was adding a third shift and 650 jobs at Spring Hill Manufacturing to increase output of the recently launched Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia.
According to TDOT, the extension of Saturn Parkway is being combined with two other projects in the area: Project Shotgun and improvements to the intersection of Beechcroft Road and Cleburne Road. The plans also call for the construction of a grade-separated railroad crossing on Beechcroft
Project Shotgun involves a State Industrial Access grant project that mainly includes a widening of Beechcroft Road from two to three lanes, with curb and gutter improvements, in the area of the auto supplier manufacturers, as well as a right turn lane at Town Center Parkway.
The Saturn Parkway extension and accompanying projects is a state-funded effort to boost economic development in the region. According to TDOT’s leadership, the department works closely with the Economic & Community Development Department in efforts to bring industry and high quality jobs to Tennessee.
“TDOT uses State Industrial Access Program dollars to fund these types of transportation projects. There are instances where projects can be fast tracked, while others may require more environmental and/or design work that could lengthen the delivery time.”
While no formal plans currently exist for the undertaking, TDOT officials have also said that an even farther extension of Saturn Parkway over to Interstate-840 (formerly state Route 840) make sense in terms of a long-range, comprehensive plan.
Extension to 840 may be something that occurs in the future based on population growth and development in the area, said TDOT leadership.
The Saturn Parkway extension is currently being let to contract as a “Design/Build” project.
TDOT is also currently acquiring the necessary right-of-way, or the land easements needed to build road transportation improvements, for both Project Shotgun and the Beechcroft-Cleburne intersection improvements. The Design/Build contractor for the Saturn Parkway project will be acquiring the right-of-way for the extension.
The current project schedule for Saturn Parkway is:
- Release of the Request for Proposal (RFP) to qualified contractors in the second quarter of 2017.
- Selection of the Design/Build contractor by the third quarter of 2017.
- Completion of the project by Oct. 31, 2019.
Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at [email protected].