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Mills Cautions Much Work Ahead, But T-DOT Funding Will Impact City

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Mills Cautions Much Work Ahead, But T-DOT Funding Will Impact City

Cookeville City Manager James Mills said he is excited about the $322 million in road improvements set to be funded by T-DOT for Cookeville and Putnam County.

The project list released Monday includes widening the Interstate 40 exchange at Jefferson Avenue. Mills said this is the project that the city has been most excited about. Mills is hopeful that the project will create additional turn lanes for drivers looking to go east or westbound on Interstate 40. Mills said the next step will be gathering details on what each project will entail.

“Anybody that’s driven through South Jefferson by I-40 in the afternoon or in the morning coming into town will be able to tell you that that is a traffic nightmare,” Mills said. “We have traffic, matter of fact, we have traffic backed up all the way to Veterans at some points.”

Mills said that area around I-40 is the busiest spot in the city, so he is thrilled to finally have funding for projects the city has needed for decades. Mills said this would be the most impactful project for traffic in the city out of everything the city proposed.

“We felt like this is a rare opportunity to get a very expensive project done,” Mills said. “We had our fingers crossed that we would get approved for this because we felt like it was maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get something done, but we knew that it was a very expensive project.”

The city received funding for three other projects as well, including two that are already underway, including improvements to the intersection of West Jackson Street and Willow Avenue.

Mills said the city is grateful to T-DOT and Upper Cumberland representatives for the projects that have been approved, but he was hopeful for even more.

“We’re still disappointed,” Mills said. “I guess you could say we shot for the moon. We submitted projects in excess of $250 million.”

Mills also said residents should not expect anything to change right away. As this is a ten-year plan, the process of getting these projects underway will likely take years. Mills said the West Jackson Street and Willow Avenue project was approved some 15 years ago and still has years to go before it will be complete. T-DOT announced another $1.5 million for that project as the cost of materials has sky-rocketed since the project was budgeted.

Mills said this early in the process, the city still needs to gather more information on T-DOT’s plans.

“We’re still in a wait and see and get more information mode right now,” Mills said.


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