TDOT discusses road projects surrounding Blue Oval City

TDOT map
TDOT plans for development surrounding the Blue Oval City development.

By KATE COIL 

TML Communications Specialist

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) discusses ongoing major projects surrounding the Blue Oval City development near Stanton at the third Blue Oval Community Session hosted by TNECD.

Steve Sellers, Blue Oval program manager for TDOT, said there are two major projects that are part of the deliverables agreed upon between the state and Ford: the State Route 194 Extension and Exit 39 and the Interstate 40 Interchange. The State Route 194 Extension will bisect the Blue Oval property and will connect the project to the proposed interchange at the new Exit 39.

“Right now we have a four-lane, median-divided roadway,” Sellers said. “With more information coming in, some of this may change and most likely will change within the megasite itself as we get information from Ford and how they are developing their site.”

The project has been divided into two sections by TDOT: G1 and G2. The G1 section of the project has to be completed by the end of January 2025 as per the agreement with Ford and includes the initial access road, the free flow interchange at Exit 39, an extension of two miles of State Route 194 from I-40 to the initial access road, and an extension of 3.6 miles of State Route 468 to State Route 222. To complete these projects to satisfy the agreement, at least one lane must be functional in each direction.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the interchange at Exit 39,” Sellers said. “A lot of you have seen a design concept that has a larger interchange concept, but there are most likely going to be changes through that intersection. We don’t want to put that out there because things are rapidly changing. We will have that design out there when it is finalized. We are still reviewing traffic modeling and forecasting of that modeling, including future traffic increases.”

Blue Oval Timeline
Proposed timeline for road projects related to Blue Oval City

The G2 section of the project must be completed by the end of July 2026 and includes the extension of 2.3 miles of State Route 194 from the connector road to State Route 1 and the extension of 3.5 miles of State Route 194 from I-40 to State Route 59.

At present, Sellers said TDOT is working on aspects of the project like getting the interchange access request approved by the Federal Highway Authority (FHWA), stream and wetland mitigation projects, a swath of technical studies, NEPA approval, LiDAR and ground surveys, design concepts, utility early notice and initial rail coordination, and meetings with property owners along these roadways.

While a tentative early timeline has construction on these road projects starting around October 2023, Sellers said this is subject to change as well. The project has been designated a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC) Project by TDOT, which will accelerate delivery of the project. This alternative contracting method involves a contractor in the design and construction phases of the project to streamline design and improve a construction schedule.

“We are expecting to beat the timeline of delivery this project by CMGC,” Sellers said. “We have already selected a designer, and in the future, we are going to select a construction manager who is going to help and assist the designer and TDOT to deliver this project on time. One of the reasons we chose this was to expedite complex project delivery. We will also look at the contractors’ capabilities so they know our expectations. We all go in knowing what is expected while in the design process.”

Antoine Hawkins, community transportation planner supervisor for TDOT’s Region 4, said that working with the three regional planning organizations (RPOs) and two metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) is vital as the location of the project is within 25 miles of the territory of all five organizations despite being located within the South West RPO.

“Your RPOs are here for you; we come out to the community,” Hawkins said. “We want to assist with your planning needs concerning Blue Oval City and any other transportation needs as necessary. As we all know, this will have regional impact.”

Shelton Merrell, regional planner for the Southwest Tennessee Development District RPO, said those municipalities that haven’t should reach out to their RPO about how Blue Oval may change local needs and consider joining their local RPO if they haven’t already.  Taking a look at current transit plans, particular major arterial growth plans, may something municipalities in the region should consider.

“If you have a community transportation planning request, there are documents on our website that you can download, and we will come out, do an analysis, take pictures, and turn that back into TDOT,” Merrell said. “We are here and available via email and telephone. We invite everyone to participate in the RPO program, especially if you don’t have a consultant, planning agency, or planner help you facilitate your planning process.”

To keep up-to-date with both projects related to Blue Oval City and other projects across the state of Tennessee, visit TDOT’s iTrip Dashboard