After years of calling for Main Street (U.S. Highway 31) in Spring Hill to be widened, city residents got their first look at the initial functional layout for a potential widening of the major arterial roadway to five lanes.

The board room at city hall was nearly filled with residents at Monday’s Transportation Advisory Committee meeting where Mike Biggs, of Wiser Consultants, presented the plan. It features a total of four travel lanes and a turn lane on Highway 31 stretching from Buckner Road to Miles Johnson Parkway.

The anticipated cost of the project totals $19 million, according to Biggs – a significant reduction from the state’s estimated $33 million price tag for the project.

“It’s important to note that in the MPO’s mid-cycle plan, a project for Highway 31 widening is included,” said Alderman Jonathan Duda. “It is the same in terms of scope, from Buckner Road to Miles Johnson Parkway, and that cost is $33 million.

“We were challenged. We heard from (TDOT Commissioner John) Schroer that alternatives are necessary. We were challenged to provide an alternative. And we have accomplished that same goal with a five-lane widening, but conceptually we are looking at $19 million now. We now have an alternative, just as Franklin developed an alternative for Mack Hatcher.”

By taking bike and pedestrian traffic on Main Street and running it parallel with frontage roads rather than on Highway 31 itself, planners were able to minimize the right-of-way land the city will need to acquire from landowners. According to Biggs, there are 87 right-of-way tracts within the two-mile corridor from Buckner Road to Miles Johnson Parkway, and the plan presented on Tuesday would affect just 43 properties.

The plan also recommends compression of travel lanes to 10 feet, down from the current width of 12 feet. Although, Biggs clarified that with the one-foot shoulders, drivers would actually have 11-foot lanes, and the center turn lane would remain 12 feet wide for the most part.

Highway 31 functions as the primary north-south corridor connecting Spring Hill, Thompson’s Station and Franklin. Incidentally, it is also one of the most highly traveled roads in the county, seeing an average daily traffic count of 21,013 cars in 2014 in the Spring Hill-Thompson’s Station area.

The widening of U.S. 31 from Miles Johnson Parkway to Buckner Road in Spring Hill is on the state’s planning horizon for 2021-2030, but city officials in Spring Hill seek to expedite the process by funding the initial design work and possibly even sharing the costs of the future right-of-way land acquisition and construction work.

However, at Tuesday’s Transportation Advisory Committee meeting, City Administrator Victor Lay cautioned the Tennessee Department of Transportation had not yet seen the plan, much less approved it.

According to Biggs, the next steps in the process will be to identify and address any environmental needs and ensure the preliminary design meets and addresses those environmental needs.

Once TDOT concurs and approves the environmental documents, he said the city can finalize engineering design, get it approved and begin going through the right-of-way acquisition process like the city is now doing on Duplex Road.

Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at [email protected].