published Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Highway link planned in Jasper

JASPER, Tenn. -- A project to connect state Highways 150 and 28 in Jasper is moving forward now that city officials have approved the plan.

Last week, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution allowing the Tennessee Department of Transportation to proceed.

Jasper Mayor Billy Simpson said the project has been years in the making and he is glad it is finally getting under way.

"I started working on this and have begged and pleaded for it to happen," he said. "Now the engineering part is done and TDOT is in the process of moving forward."

City Attorney Mark Raines said the resolution is "a pretty standard form" that TDOT uses with this type of road project.

"Basically, what it says is once this project starts, [Jasper] will have to adhere to [TDOT's] rules and regulations," Simpson said.

For example, if the route crosses any city property, Jasper would have to deed that property to the state "without compensation," Raines said.

"I don't know of any city street that this is going to affect," he said.

"Most of the people that are going to be affected are private landowners and a little bit of the school system's property," Raines said. "If they were building it through downtown Jasper, it would probably have a lot more of an effect on us."

Officials said the new road will pass Marion County High School and Jasper Elementary School, but the school system will be responsible for building a driveway from the schools to the new road.

"Initially, the state was going to build the [driveway] and connect that to the city street to give us an outlet," Raines said. "[TDOT] notified us that with the funding crunch that they were basically going to give access, but they're not going to build the [driveway]. I don't know when that [driveway] will be built, if ever."

Raines said the [driveway] would be "up to the county school system to put in place" and "everybody knows what their funding situation is."

Officials said the next phase of the project will include the state securing rights of way and easements from landowners.

"The bottom line is there's not going to be a whole lot of added expense for the city here," Alderman Steve Looney said.

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