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‘A plan in waiting’

Posted on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at 8:05 am

437 Bypass expansion on hold

One existing road of major concern is Fairfield Pike. With the additions of Cartwright Elementary School, pictured, and new residential development, the need for changes, which could cost upwards of $30 million, are more urgent. (Photo by Zoe Watkins)


If State Route 437 was a movie instead of a highway it would be in what Hollywood calls “turnaround” which means a movie, usually in the pre-production stage, has been put on hold.

For several reasons the extension of the by-pass is a “turnaround.” In order to recoup some of their money, studios will often sell film rights to another studio, also called a “turnaround.”

But for the City of Shelbyville there is only on place to turn – the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).

At the joint meeting of the Shelbyville City Council, the Shelbyville Planning Commission and various department heads to discuss the impact of the increase growth in the city the idea was the bypass completion had been put on hold, i.e. “turnaround.”

“There is not much going on with the project,” said Pat Marsh, District 62 State Representative and Speaker Pro Tempore of the House.” It is not funded in the present budget. I’m trying to get it back on the list.”

Marsh provided a series of emails which provide background on why the completion of the section has been delayed.

An August 2022 email to Marsh from Paul Deggess – since retired as TDOT Deputy Commissioner – mentioned that during some evaluation work there was an issue with a property owner “who was a bit upset” with TDOT about the bypass extension.

To prevent another confrontation TDOT has studied alternative alignments. The email also cited “a significant number of archeological sites” requiring additional study.

At the time Deggess wrote environmental studies were underway. It was estimated the environmental studies might take 24 months to complete which means they should be finished sometime this year.

Since they are waiting for all of the studies to be completed, the emails add TDOT has no funding date or start date for the bypass.

While the bypass is simply a plan in waiting, the city streets that are already here are the primary concern of Buck Vallad, Shelbyville Public Works Director.

There are 105 lane miles within the city limits. Lane miles are calculated by multiplying the centerline miles by the number of lanes and measuring the total length and lane count of a highway or road.

“Right now, we invest $600,000 annually to maintain our roads,” Vallad said. “That is an increase from when I first started when it was $250,000. The City Council has been helpful in bringing that number up.”

TDOT workers walked every mile within the city to help provide input for future expansion and maintain of the current roads.

“To maintain current conditions right now the study says it would be $1.2 million annually,” Vallad said. “New roads are at 100 percent, but in order to get our roads up to 70 percent we would have to spend $1.4 million. To eliminate any backlog it would be $2.8 million. Those were eye-opening numbers.

”I think between the $1.2 million and $1.4 million we could make some good head way with the roads we have right now. After about five or six years a new road drops you down to about 70 percent. It is the natural deterioration. Forty percent of our roads are below 50 percent. That is why it would cost so much money to bring everything up to the 70 percent standard.

One existing road of major concern is Fairfield Pike. Vallad said people have been talking about expanding and improving it for more than 20 years. With the additions of Cartwright Elementary School and new residential development the need for changes, which could cost upwards of $30 million, are more urgent

A grant could be obtained. But Vallad stresses the need to plan.

“We are studying it,” Vallad said. “If we want to do it we need to start putting money back for it. We can apply for a grant, but we need to be prepared for it if we get it.”