The Tennessean• May 7, 2008
FRANKLIN —For more than 20 years now, Mark and Cindy Tumblin built their lives where a road — specifically, Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway — would one day be constructed.
While life's road brought the Tumblins children and careers, the parkway remained incomplete, despite years of talk from city and state officials.
After all the years, Mack Hatcher's completion is now getting renewed attention from Franklin leaders who want to pay to finish the state road themselves. But doing that means finally condemning 17 Rebel Meadows homes, including the Tumblins', to make way for the road officials say will alleviate Franklin's traffic crunch.
While they're excited about the prospect of work finally beginning, residents here worry about the uncertainty of having their homes condemned.
"We know it's going to happen, we just don't know when," said Cindy Tumblin, a teacher. "Even though it's not anything fancy, my heart is here. My children have grown up here."
Plans for completing Mack Hatcher Parkway have languished for years. But after public meetings and discussions, state road officials in 2005 announced they had chosen a 7.5-mile path to constitute the western half of the bypass.
The road will begin south of Franklin at Columbia Avenue before running northwest to Carter's Creek Pike, where it will go north to Old Charlotte Pike and then northeast, connecting with Hillsboro Road just north of Victoria Drive.
Extension to be 4 lanes, Once completed it will be four lanes, divided by a median with intersections at Columbia Avenue, Carter's Creek Pike, Highway 96 West, Del Rio Pike and Hillsboro Road, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Since the route's announcement, there's been no visible progress, though the parkway has been the subject of much discussion. Right of way for the project can't be purchased until an environmental study focusing on the road's impact, currently under way, is completed.
Franklin Mayor John Schroer, who called the delays "ridiculous," said he wants to speed up the project's completion for the sake of drivers and Rebel Meadows residents.
"The people in Rebel Meadows deserve to have this done," Schroer said. "Their lives have been in some state of limbo since (the route) was announced. . . . They deserve to be able to get on with their lives."
Schroer said he plans to ask Gov. Phil Bredesen to allow Franklin to pay for building the remainder of Mack Hatcher Parkway rather than wait for state road officials to pay later. State road officials are facing the loss of millions in federal road-building dollars because of budget cuts.
"If you ask the state, they'll look at you and shrug their shoulders and say, 'We've got no money,' " Schroer said. "There is not a timeline established from an implementation of Mack Hatcher. We want to figure out a way to get that done quicker."
Schroer wants state road officials to pay the city back for completing work on the loop around Franklin — a project that could cost between $50 million and $60 million.
If the plan is approved by state officials, Schroer estimated that a "best-case scenario" might include buying right of way later this year with construction starting next year.
Regardless of what might come of Schroer's discussions with Bredesen, work on the road's extension could not begin until the environmental study is complete, said B.J. Doughty, a TDOT spokeswoman.
"You cannot move on to the right of way until you have the environmental documents in hand," Doughty said.
"We're willing to do whatever we can to help Franklin move this project ahead with the understanding that there are limitations that we can't work around."
Homeowners carry onMeanwhile, neighbors in Rebel Meadows aren't letting the potential loss of their homes slow them.
Homeowner Don Cates says he's planning on spending $10,000 in upgrades to his house after years of putting off the work.
"I've neglected the house since they chose the route, thinking they would condemn me at any time and obviously here we are, three years later," Cates said.
Cates said neighbors have had some casual conversations with an attorney about the condemnation but have not hired an attorney yet. So far, he's heard no word from the city about the start of the parkway's work or the condemnation proceedings.
Just down from Cates, David Pendley, 36, and his family just bought their house — one of the ones that will be torn down one day — in early 2008. He said he "definitely" will make upgrades on his house. He did his own research on the house and on imminent domain before he bought.
"I recognize that they have to put in new roads," Pendley said. "I recognize that is part of the development and part of the community process."
Amid the talk of losing the houses, the tug of home remains a strong one.
"I'm 50 years old and I can still go to Knoxville and drive by the house I grew up in," Mark Tumblin said. "Our boys will never be able to do that."