By KEVIN BOWDEN
Construction of the I-69 leg around Union City is winding down this fall, and a lack of federal funding continues to stand in the way of the project’s completion.
Mike Harrison, Ford Construction Co. superintendent of Union City operations, said he thinks it will be more than 10 years before the local leg of the interstate is completed.
His opinion is based on the approximate $37 million in federal funds already spent on the interstate in Obion County and the fact that new interstate construction begins in a field off Perry Browder Road and ends in a field about an eighth-mile south of West Main Street. (See related graphic, Page 2.)
There are no contracts to extend the interstate any further, according to Harrison.
On paper, new interstate construction for I-69 covers about 20.2 miles through Obion County.
The new interstate will come into Obion County along Highway 51 South from South Fulton. The proposed interstate will continue down Highway 51 until it veers west at Mayberry Road, with the interstate route then turning south as it travels west of Union City all the way to south of Troy. There, the interstate will reconnect with Highway 51 South as it travels through Dyer, Lauderdale, Tipton and Shelby counties as it makes its way into Mississippi on its way to the Mexican border.
Once completed, the I-69 corridor will connect Mexico with Canada and is expected to have a significant economic impact on the communities along its path.
The local section of I-69 is split into five segments. Construction on the interstate is being done one segment at a time. The most visible progress is being made on Section 4 of the interstate, located on the west and north sides of Union City. It is that segment that winds around the Titan Tire plant and extends south over West Main Street.
Phase 1 of segment 4 is scheduled to be completed this fall, according to Erwin White, project manager with the state Department of Transportation office in Jackson. Phase 1 involves “earthwork and structures,” according to White.
“There’s been a crew (from Ford Construction Co.) out there working on it all year long,” Harrison said.
However, he said no new contracts have been let for the local interstate section and that will mean work will shut down in mid-November.
So far, all the work has involved right-of-way acquisition, clearing, dirtwork and gravel. Harrison said there has been no blacktopping of the interstate, other than “incidental” blacktopping on areas involving the reopening of roads affected by the interstate route.
Harrison even went so far as to describe the project as an interstate “that will likely take years to complete.”
It has been estimated the total pricetag of the new Canada-to-Mexico interstate will be $25 billion. The cost for the I-69 segment through West Tennessee is estimated at $1.5 billion and it will take an estimated $250million-$300 million to complete the interstate section through Obion County.
“Interstate 69 is a highway of national significance, reaching far beyond the borders of Tennessee. Thus far our investments in I-69 total more than $200 million, most of which was comprised of federal earmarks with some state matching funds. There is no further federal funding dedicated to the I-69 corridor, at this time,” said state Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer.
Once completed, the “corridor of national significance” will travel through Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Work on the new interstate began about 20 years ago.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 9.28.12