By MIKE WEST, Courier Editor
Look out, beware, be careful if it's your first time out the "new" McMinnville Highway this week.
A series of electrical warning signs are spreading that message as motorists head toward the newly completed four-lane version of state Route 70S which opened Monday (Nov. 24) after nearly eight years of construction.
Thus far, a major concern are the cross roads on the new highway, said Sgt. Billy Prater of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
"I am hoping people will stop and look before crossing," Prater said.
There are four intersections on the Cannon County end of the project. Of particular concern is Center Hill Road (state Route 281) and Short Mountain Road (state Route 146) due to traffic flow.
"We're trying to increase our patrol in particular on Route 281 (Center Hill Road)," the THP sergeant said.
During the long construction period, motorists got used to crossing the new highway without stopping. It's amazing there has been no major accidents yet, he said, explaining the THP is concentrating on preventing that sort of tragedy.
Speeding seems to be a problem on the nice, new four-lane as well.
One state trooper has already caught a motorist doing 80 miles per hour on the new roadway in Cannon County. The speed limit is 65 mph for much of the roadway, but slows to 55 at both ends of the highway before dropping to 45 mph in Newtown (Warren County).
"We've already investigated two deer versus car crashes as well," Prater said.
Originally, the Tennessee Department of Transportation planned a four-lane from McMinnville through (or around) Woodbury to connect to the four-lane John Bragg Highway running to Murfreesboro. Work began in 2006.
Funding problems slowed the construction project in addition to discussion about whether the road should go through Woodbury or bypass the town either to the north or the south. This issue was unofficially resolved during the November election. A slight majority of voters were in favor of a southern bypass in the non-binding question which was taken for "advisory purposes only."
Meanwhile, funds for completing the project are currently depleted, leaving seven miles of the roadway as a two-lane.