Clarksville, TN – I want to thank all the folks that were able to join Kaye Jones and myself in a joint Ward 10 and Ward 11 community meeting this past Monday, June 3rd. A surprise attendee was Councilman Marc Harris, Ward 6, and we were glad to have him visit.
In order to bring everyone up to speed, I’ll cover the major surprise item I had for citizens.
Madison Street Access Road Concept (Surprise)
For some months I have mentioned that I was working my third road project in the ward. The Exit 11 traffic lights and the widening of Sango Road from the Park and Ride to its intersection with Hwy76/MLK were the first two. The traffic lights are operational and the widening of Sango looks to be possible by late summer, early fall. I want to thank Tennessee State Representative Curtis Johnson again for gaining the state finances to do Exit 11 and for his help in getting the latest info on the status of the Sango project.
Attached you will find a preliminary engineering design of my third road project which is an access road concept along Madison Street near the Hwy76/MLK intersection. The access roads that I proposed are in gray. The light green areas are the current parking lot accesses from area businesses to Madison. The state’s proposed widening in this area is overlaid onto the current street setup.
Basically, the state’s additional lanes are between the yellow lines you see in the photo. You will note the state is proposing to add lanes between the Madison/Hwy76 intersection and Richview Drive. Some sections will be close to eight lanes wide according to the state overlay.
I have described much of my concept detail in past articles so I won’t bore you too much with repeating that. However, the main purpose in my proposal is to take traffic off that section of Madison and redirect it to the access roads.
It is already a problem to cross three or four lanes to visit a business that lies on the other side of the road. It is also dangerous that vehicles coming out of these businesses may be crossing the full width of Madison to go in the direction they need. I have suggested that with the access lanes in place, traffic leaving these businesses could be limited to going in the direction of the flow of traffic or forced to go on the access road to re-enter Madison from specific point.
As readers will recall, in January 2013 it appeared the state was going to delay the widening of Madison to McAdoo Creek Road for possibly a year or more. Because of this I halted any further effort to advance the access road idea. I had been tracking the progress of the state budget and read that money for the widening might be back in the budget.
I started to contact the mayor and see if what I was reading was true. As readers know the mayor has dictated that council members need to have permission to gain access to information or aid from city departments.
However, while the mayor has this requirement, any requests to her are as likely to be ignored as answered. Several of my requests to her concerning info with this upcoming budget have met the ignored fate. Thus, I contacted TDOT myself and found them very helpful with information about the road project.
Money is back in the budget and a few more approvals are needed. Late summer or early fall may see the project begin. The interesting point is the Mayor had no problems submitting the access road plan to TDOT for consideration and had been in attendance at a TDOT meeting. Seems my concept has merit and they agree to look further at it. Here is the statement that I received from TDOT on May 28th:
“As you probably know, TDOT met with local officials, including the mayor several months ago. There were some issues with the intersection of SR-112 and SR-76 and the section of SR-112 just west of that intersection. At the meeting, suggestions for improvements from an access management and overall operational standpoint were made and everyone agreed. With that in mind, TDOT decided to make the intersection improvements a separate project. TDOT explained that removing the intersection from the current project would cause a brief delay. Clarksville leaders were agreeable with the proposed changes and delays.”
The TDOT information showed the mayor has been holding out on me where things stood with the project and TDOT. This became more apparent from a May 28 email I sent to the mayor sharing the info I had received from TDOT. In that email, I asked the mayor if she had any further info about the project. Also, I asked if she had been talking to the potentially affected businesses about my concept due to comments I had received from a business constituent in that area. Per the usual mayoral response, I heard nothing back.
However, “The Leaf-Chronicle” did cover the ward community meeting and prepared a story on the access road concept. In a response to the newspaper, the mayor stated she had received good feedback from the businesses that could be affected. It is interesting that I can get information from TDOT and the newspaper in a timely and efficient manner, but cannot get a response from the mayor’s office.
As a councilman I have listened to the needs of my ward, especially when it comes to road/infrastructure improvements in our area. I worked years on trying to gain support and approval to get traffic lights at Exit 11 and it was finally accomplished.
I have been working about four years to have improvements made on Sango Road where it connects to the Exit 11 area. It appears we are within months of getting that started/accomplished. I am proud that I can point to these actions and see progress.
However, I did not do it alone and had to have a great amount of support, help, guidance, and expertise from the city departments that oversee that type of work. I have always had a very good working relationship with these departments. I also did not have to fight City Hall to get assistance and accomplish these important projects.
In the newspaper article on the access road concept, the mayor was quoted that I had been “directing work” of a city department with this project, in violation of the city charter. I had not received permission to have a “great deal of work” to be performed by a city department. The mayor can spin a story, but the facts always popup at the wrong time. The truth is I went before the Mayor’s appointed City Council Street Committee on September 17th, 2012 to get permission to have the city engineers assist me with a concept layout. The engineers said they could do it in a couple of months. Based on that, the committee gave the engineers, and me, permission to go ahead.
I was ready to present my concept to the mayor and Street Committee in December 2012. The meeting was cancelled. I rescheduled for January 2013. The meeting was cancelled. I learned by that time the state was holding the project and the delay could be a year or more. I decided to hold any further efforts until the project was back on track. I also learned the mayor had already seen my concept plan.
Given that TDOT has seen the concept, shared that they have an interest in the concept, that the city mayor is in on it and they have split a major road project into two pieces to allow time for further study of it, the mayor jumps up and laments that my sharing such information with the public is not right. The paper quotes her as saying,
“He’s now taking his plan public without knowing whether it’s fiscally feasible, whether TDOT will buy into his plan, and without considering plans that are already under way,”
I worked this access road project using the same project methodology that I used for the Exit 11 traffic light and the Sango Road improvement. Make the powers in charge aware that a problem exists, define the problem, offer solutions you think will resolve the problem, and get those with the resources and authority to implement a solution. I kept you informed on what I was doing, when I was doing it and what I was proposing each step of the way on those other projects.
“We can rush a project like this through, caring more about who gets credit for it, or we can do it the right way and make as certain as we can that it is well-planned and meets the needs of all the stakeholders. I will continue to choose the right way.”
The “right way” is to keep the people that pay the city’s bills informed. The mayor touts open government, but continually fails to carry it out. Her recent actions in keeping a close hold on information related to this access road concept, rewriting job descriptions to reward and retain her appointed staff with pay raises of thousand of dollars and spending almost one million dollars related to health insurance without showing it as a projected budget item or even informing the council until we see it in a revised budget after the fact are only a few examples. If the mayor believes that is the “right way” it is time for a new compass.
More to come on the budget.
Editor’s Note: This article contains the view points of Councilman Bill Summers and may not represent the views of the rest of the City Council, the City of Clarksville or ClarksvilleOnline.