MURFREESBORO — The marathon planning process for a new Middle Tennessee Boulevard entered the final stretch when the Murfreesboro City Council last week approved contracts with various providers to pave the way to finally start the project.
At its regular Thursday night meeting, the city’s governing body approved contracts with firms to widen and enhance Middle Tennessee Boulevard from East Main Street to Greenland Drive.
“The roots of this project go back to 1995,” said Dana Richardson during the meeting.
Over the past 20 years, MTSU and Murfreesboro have worked together to secure the funds needed to complete the $18 million project, which includes design, construction and environmental testing.
The final design is for a four-lane, landscaped, median-divided roadway with curbs, gutters and improved pedestrian facilities, such as bike lanes, stamped asphalt crosswalks and “plaza areas at intersections,” said Richardson, Murfreesboro Transportation director.
The design also calls for underground utilities, which will be funded by the utility companies, and a pull-off lane to load and unload in front of Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center.
Richardson said he expects the project to take about 30 months to complete.
“This may be the single biggest project the city has done before it’s over,” Vice Mayor Doug Young said.
It may also be the longest to come to fruition.
Back in 1995, Murfreesboro proposed rebuilding the road as it is currently designed, four lanes with a center turn lane.
But MTSU asked for more, including a landscaped median.
City officials said that level of reconstruction is expensive and the university would need to help with the funding, Richardson said.
It took another 13 years, but, in 2008, MTSU got financial help in the form of federal funding from former U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.
Now the project is mostly funded by the federal government, with MTSU contributing $4.9 million and Murfreesboro kicking in only $662,176.
After the funding was secured, MTSU and Murfreesboro agreed on a memorandum of understanding in 2009 and embarked on a six-year struggle to design and bid out the project during the Great Recession.
The city finally bid out the project in June, but the lowest bid came in $3.5 million more than the city’s budgeted amount of $11 million.
After rebidding the project, the lower of two bids came in at $15.7 million in October, but the company, Civil Contractors from Franklin, has been suspended by the Federal Highway Administration.
“The Middle Tennessee Boulevard project includes substantial federal funding, which consequently disqualifies Civil Contractors from being awarded the contract,” Richardson said.
So Jarrett Brothers from Nashville was awarded the contract with a bid of $15,786,359.60.
The City Council also approved contracts for design services and geotechnical testing.