It's been known about for several weeks, but on Monday, officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation traveled to Cookeville to make the official announcement. TDOT officials joined Senator Charlotte Burks and Representatives Henry Fincher and Charles Curtiss to announce federal approval for a proposed new Interstate 40 interchange at Mine Lick Creek Road in Cookeville. The Federal Highway Administration has approved TDOT's Interstate Access request for the proposed interchange after determining that the diamond interchange alternative to connect I-40 to U.S. Highway 70 North and eventually to State Route 136 is operationally acceptable.
"Access into and out of a community is vital to its continued growth and development, so it is vital our infrastructure keep pace with expansion in the Cookeville area," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "Highway 70 North and State Route 136 are main routes in the city and once complete this interchange will improve access and increase economic development opportunities in this area."
The project is part of Putnam County's and Cookeville's long range transportation plan. The original request for a new interchange was made by former Cookeville Mayor Charles T. Womack, and the initial Interchange Justification Study was completed in August 2000. TDOT submitted the current Interchange Justification Study to the Federal Highway Administration in March 2010, and it was approved on September 14, 2010. TDOT plans to construct a diamond interchange on I-40 at Mine Lick Creek Road. The northern side of the interchange will connect to U.S. 70 North and the southern side will connect to Lee Seminary Road and will eventually tie into SR-136. The project will enhance economic development south of I-40 by providing access to the Highlands Business Park. The project is estimated to cost around $14 million. TDOT will begin the ground survey of the project later this year in preparation for preliminary plans, which should be ready by spring of 2011. Final right-of-way plans are slated to be complete in spring of 2012, after which the project can proceed to right-of-way acquisition. Right-of-way funding for the project is included in the state's three-year plan, but funding will not be authorized until completion of preliminary design work and issuance of final right-of-way plans in the spring of 2012. Construction has not been funded yet, but the project should be ready for construction funding in 2013.