A road project that has been on the books since 1986 is finally complete after years of construction and environmental delays.
The final 14 miles of State Route 840 officially opened to the public Friday just before 6 p.m., completing a 78-mile southern loop around Nashville that runs through Williamson, Rutherford and Wilson counties.
Concerns over the road's environmental impact particularly in Williamson County prompted lawsuits that delayed construction for years.
Gov. Bill Haslam joined U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, former Gov. Don Sundquist, former Gov. Winfield Dunn and John Schroer, the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, in Williamson County on Friday morning to mark the opening.
The new 14-mile section, from US 31 (Columbia Pike) in Franklin to State Route 46 (Pinewood Road) near Leiper's Fork, is the final piece of the 78-mile route.
"This project will benefit citizens across Tennessee and the entire region by providing better access to dozens of communities and three interstates," Haslam said. "This major improvement to our infrastructure will aid in our economic development efforts and will continue to make Tennessee an attractive location for business."
Plans for State Route 840 were included in the 1986 Better Roads Program, introduced by Alexander, and subsequently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly.
"SR 840 becomes part of one the nation's top-rated four-lane highway systems, one that has spread auto jobs to 85 of our 95 counties," said Alexander. "These 78 new miles of interstate-quality highway will be a magnet for jobs, providing new industrial sites as well as relieving congestion. Tennesseans built SR 840 with no federal dollars, no tolls and no debt - and our gas tax still is six cents below the national average. Gov. Haslam and the many state and local leaders who have maintained this long-term, pay-as-you-go thinking deserve congratulations."
Construction began on the first segment from Stewarts Ferry Pike to Interstate 40 in Wilson County in 1991. Construction on the final 14 miles from State Route 46 to U.S. 31 in Williamson County began in early 2009.
"The final sections of SR 840 faced numerous challenges which brought about monumental changes within TDOT," Schroer said. "We were able to meet our goal of opening this highway before the end of the year and deliver a project that has the support of this community. I want to thank the hundreds of contract workers and TDOT employees who worked diligently to make this happen."
The state said a number of environmental protection measures were implemented on the last section of State Route 840, including a taller controlled access fence to discourage wildlife from entering the roadway.
Landscaping was installed at the Carter's Creek Pike interchange, and native trees were planted at each stream crossing. Access roads were also constructed under two bridges for a future county park development.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates that the completion of State Route 840 will save travelers valuable time by avoiding the congestion in downtown Nashville.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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