Last Thursday, members of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) along with several federal, state, and local government officials met along I-65 to break ground on a new multiphase interstate widening project.
The project was awarded to Jones Bros., LLC. The middle Tennessee contractor had the lowest bid at $160 million dollars, making it the largest project in TDOT history, surpassing the $152 million I-440 reconstruction project.
“I-65 is a major north to south corridor serving many communities,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said. “This work will address congestion, improve safety and traffic operations, and accommodate current and future traffic demands.”
Thursday’s groundbreaking was for a phase of the project stretching from State Route 25 to near State Route 109 in Robertson County.
The over 9.6-mile widening project will encompass a list of improvements, including one additional travel lane in each direction, as well as replacing and widening 10 bridges and replacing four overpasses.
An empty northbound weigh station will be converted into truck parking, and up to 17 retaining walls along the interstate are also planned to be built.
“This is going to be great for all of us,” Portland Mayor Mike Callis said. “Truck traffic is a huge thing. So having an extra lane that trucks can be in or cars can get around, it’s really going to be helpful, especially during rush hour times and the morning and evenings. Kentucky built out their interstate coming to the state line and now Tennessee is following suit doing the same thing. Traversing between Bowling Green and Nashville, it’s going to be huge for everyone when this project is finished.”
Joining Bright and Callis at the groundbreaking were Tennessee House Majority Leader William Lamberth, as well as Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown and Robertson County Mayor Billy Vogle.
“Anything done on 65 that affects Millersville, Portland, and White House is a big plus for Robertson County,” Vogle said. “As Nashville grows, they’ve found that I-65 north is the gateway into Robertson County. This helps get more industry into the county and makes room for more traffic.”
Construction on this phase will begin within the month and has a completion date of on or before December 2025. There are financial incentives to finish early and penalties for any delays. For every day early the project is completed workers will receive a bonus and for every day late a penalty is required. Most of these projects are done this way to incentivize them being completed on time.
The entire project itself stretches from Exit 96, near Rivergate in Tennessee to Exit 121 in Kentucky and will be completed in four phases.
While the phase in Robertson and Sumner counties that broke ground Thursday is scheduled to last four years, the entire I-65 project is estimated to take up to 10-12 years.
Talks of expanding the interstate has been in the works for quite some time, and many are looking forward to seeing this development finally come to fruition.
“The widening of I-65 has been talked about for well over 20 years,” Callis said. “So, like a lot of projects those have decades worth of consideration. But this project really ramped up on design over the last three or so years. The biggest need is from Rivergate traveling north. And so, from Rivergate to Millersville, there’s a lot of congestion through there.”
Safety concerns have also become an issue with a rise of automobile accidents for this section of the interstate in recent years. Callis and Vogle are both hopeful this expansion can make the interstate less dangerous and limit the number of collisions for commuters.
“We’ve seen a lot of accidents from the state line down to the White House exit,” Callis said. “It seems like over the last three years there has been an increase in those accidents. So having an extra lane in each direction, ensuring that the roadbed is in good shape so the pavement holds together and is not splitting and having potholes, I think that will be paramount to the project.”
“First the plans have to be asked for, the money appropriated, and then you have to go by the number of fatalities in the area and the need for safety,” Vogle said. “This is very much needed for safety in that area. I’m sure we’re going to get some more projects done on I-65 and I-24 to help with traffic and people getting into and out of Nashville.”
To avoid busy travel times, TDOT says every attempt will be made to have temporary lane closures and rolling roadblocks at night or on weekends. More information regarding the construction schedule will also be available in the coming weeks.