Germantown Road Realignment?… DOA until 2023

Almost a year ago, Germantown Voice began blogging as a way to engage in political conversations. Our first blog was about the Germantown Road Realignment Project.

This topic continues to pop up, usually as a part of an argument that the “current administration” doesn’t listen to citizen input. Even as late as October last year, there were social media posts saying the Germantown Road realignment project wasn’t dead.

Officially, it is dead until at least 2023. Why 2023? This is where it gets a little complicated. Every 3-5 years the city submits a list of proposed projects to the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). The MPO is the organization that prioritizes Local State and Federal funding for road and transportation projects in the Memphis Metro area. See the map below for the area covered by the MPO.

The list submitted this year is for projects between October 2019 and September 2023. The prior list was submitted to the MPO in 2013 and that was the list that included the Germantown Road Realignment project and McVay Road Realignment, both of which were not pursued due to community feedback. This year is the first opportunity for the city to submit their new list of priorities for funding of major road projects. Noticeably absent from the list is the Germantown Road Realignment. This is even after claims that last year’s resolution to kill the project were potentially just election year placations.

The time frame for MPO requests is long range due to the long range nature of projects. In many cases, it can take years for design, review, Right of Way acquisition and construction. These projects are important to the city as the majority of them are funded primarily or even wholly with State and Federal funds. In other words, these projects don’t impact your property tax rate.

Road projects are paid for a couple of different ways. First, is the paving of residential streets. The city pays for that as part of the Public Works budgets, roughly $2,000,000 a year. Next, is the work on major roads. These projects are funded with combinations of Local, State and Federal funds. This is where the MPO comes in to play.

When I saw the list of projects I had several questions about the priority of the funding and the MPO process. I sat down with City Engineer Tim Gwaltney last week to discuss the list and how the MPO works.

The MPO funds come from 3 to 5 main buckets. Traditionally, it has funded projects under three main categories, Bridges, Paving and Signalization. Germantown usually sees at least one of each of these types of projects funded. For example, even though the new traffic light at Houston High School is number six on the list it is the highest prioritized signalization project on the City’s list so it is likely to be funded. There are two new categories this year with funding for Safety Improvements and Plans & Studies. The prioritized list is below:

  1. Wolf River Blvd Mill/Overlay from Riverdale to Western City Limits $2.0M (80% Federal)
  2. Forest Hill-Irene Safety Improvements Poplar to Wolf River Blvd $5.0M (80% Federal)
  3. Poplar Culvert Replacements – Phase 5 $550K (100% Federal)
  4. Update City Major Roads Plan $200K (80% Federal)
  5. Intersection Safety Audits $200K (80% Federal)
  6. Signalization Wolf River Blvd @ Houston High $500K (100% Federal)
  7. Signal Upgrades $2.5M (100% Federal)
  8. Neshoba Road Mill/Overlay from Germantown Rd to Exeter $1.5M (80% Federal)
  9. McVay Road Bridge Replacement (just north of McVay and Messick) $600K (80% Federal)

The city will not get official word on which projects are approved by the MPO until near the end of the budgeting process for the city. We will keep an eye on the process and let you know what gets approved from the MPO as soon as we find out. You can find out more detail about each of these projects by following the link below.

For even more information on the City of Germantown’s Transportation Improvement Program funding requests for 2020 to 2023, please attend the public meeting  January 9 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Economic and Community Development Building, 1920 South Germantown Road. Learn more here.

Germantown Road Realignment Project

FaceBook is not always the best way to participate in a political discussion especially if you are blocked by a current Alderman who has disenfranchised you from the conversation. So, I am joining with others to provide a place for all citizens of Germantown to share our point of view on the issues facing our City.

Welcome to our first blog.

I’m Terri Harris and my claim to fame is two kids who lead me down the road of parental advocacy. Along the way, I learned that there are at least two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle is the truth. And your truth may not be my truth. But a greater understanding of other people’s perspectives leads to better advocacy.

If you are like me, you are struggling to understand the planning process that is the backdrop to the much talked about issue of the Germantown Road Realignment Project. The City says the project is dead but some citizens are claiming that’s not true because the project is still listed in the Memphis MPO 2040 Livability Regional Transportation Plan. These citizens want the Plan redacted to remove the Germantown Road Realignment project. But who has the authority to make such changes to the plan?

I decided to find out.

Not being an expert on planning stuff, I started with the mayor of Memphis because it says Memphis MPO.

5EDE1F1E-EFCD-475A-B6D0-D321A7B2DEDD[The above paragraph had to be deleted from the original blog because apparently repeating what was said to you in a popular Germantown Facebook group can get you removed from the group. Since there’s already been enough blocking and excluding people, I’m just going to redact the blog to appease the administrator in charge of that Facebook group so I won’t get kicked out. Which means I can’t tell you what was posted on Facebook but I can tell you that I have it on good authority, the Memphis MPO is not run by the City of Memphis.]

Armed with that piece of information, I continued my search to find the one with the power to redact the 2040 Livability Plan.

I reached out to Ms. Pragati Srivastava from the Memphis MPO. Ms. Srivastava confirmed that projects submitted to the Memphis MPO for inclusion in the 2040 Livability Plan come from the jurisdiction responsible for the project and that jurisdiction is the definitive source of information about the project.

That means the City of Germantown is the definitive source of information for the Germantown Road Realignment Project. So, when I asked about the project, Ms. Srivastava directed me to the City of Germantown for the most up-to-date project information.

According to the City, the Germantown Road Realignment Project is dead. A public statement to that effect was recently issued by the City of Germantown and I have included the link so you can read for yourself. Ms. Srivastava confirmed in the City’s statement that the project has been withdrawn from any plans for funding requests. 

But even though the City’s statement has made the rounds on Facebook, there are those who are still disbelieving. Rather than read all the arguing about it on Facebook, one of my fellow “blockees,” Audrey Grossman, decided to take matters into her own hands by contacting Kate Horton, a Transportation Planner at Memphis MPO whose job duties with the Transportation Improvement Program include Public Involvement and Social Media.

Ms. Horton explained that items appearing in long-range plans are not happening until they have made their way to short-range plans. In the case of the Germantown Road Realignment Project, Ms. Horton stated that this project is no longer included in any short-range plans and it lacks the federal funding necessary to move forward.

For some, most notably Ken Hoover, Pauline Lathram, and a few other vocal citizens on Facebook, the issue remains as to why the project is still listed on page 177, item 66 on the 2040 Livability Regional Transportation Plan. They suspect that by remaining on the list of long term planning items, the Project could be brought up at a future date. To nix any possibility of this project, they are insisting the 2040 Livability Plan be redacted.

So, I asked Ms. Srivastava about the possibility of redaction. She said that the Memphis MPO is currently in the initial stages of development for the 2050 Livability RTP. This new plan will have the most up-to-date information on Germantown projects.

For those TRULY concerned about the Germantown Road realignment project, my best advice to you is to be proactive, not reactive. By this, I mean, watch the formation of the 2050 plan like a hawk and be ready to oppose the road realignment if you see any indication of its revival. But don’t waste your time, trying to redact an old plan that is on its way out the door.

Be an advocate on the issues and focus on actions that matter. We all know that even if every copy of the 2040 Livability RTP could be located so big bold strike-outs could be made to item 66; there would still be those who would not be satisfied and would demand further meaningless actions.