• Dave McGuire

Clarksville's Top 5 Traffic Headaches

The Clarksvillian

Metro Clarksville's 35 year transportation plan is here.

The traffic elephant in Montgomery County's room is the Governor's Square area and Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. Okay, I said it. That entire area is a headache most weekdays, with slow graduation to a migraine on weekends. An old friend best described Wilma Rudolph Blvd as "10 lbs. of mud in a 5 lb. bag." And as difficult as that situation may be for those struggling through their daily commutes, it isn't the only elephant in our room.

Multiple city officials have stressed the importance of tackling these traffic issues in the past, with little headway being made to resolve them. And like a middle school student surprised by a pop quiz, greater Clarksville experienced a population boom that has affected our traffic. Now our situation has a new dynamic, and the proverbial can that's been kicked down the road is the size of an oil barrel. For decades, city leadership has guided traffic through Wilma Rudolph Blvd as they viewed the Governor's Square area as a singular social highlight of the community. What does that mean specifically? The Wilma Rudolph Blvd at Governor's Square area is best compared with a guy my neighbor used for loading rocks. Big, ugly, productive, and not remarkably interesting. That is an accurate working description of both the rock loader and our Governor's Square district.

In all fairness, it is common for a city with Clarksville's impressive growth rates to increasingly discover new traffic hotspots. We often read or hear responses from local officials using the phrase "smart growth" as a reply to the frustration associated with growth and traffic. Talk about keywords or phrases that keep emotional arguments emotional! As a way of not subjecting family members or friends to future traffic rantings, the Smart Growth plan for Metro Clarksville can be found here. Reading and understanding that help is on the way may relieve a bit of the daily commute stress - or not. A neighbor put it best:

"Local shopping commutes? Jimmy Jones goes to Walmart 3x each day while his neighbor Martin Moofan drives to a Kroger's across town because the beef quality is "better". Part of the problem with traffic isn't the quantity or quality of the roads; - it's people jumping in their cars at the drop of a hat."

If you’re looking for a commuting alternative, you may be disappointed beyond the expense of Uber or Lyft. CTA buses serve a useful purpose for the community, with drivers hitting their stops efficiently and professionally. The CTA struggle really involves two tasks: route building around a reliable rider base and increasing ridership against a national perception of public transportation being taboo. Those are all tall hurdles to clear when considering the sprawling nature of Montgomery County.

You can pack your lunch and a little patience for a ride with the CTA or unpack your wallet for a ride with Uber or Lyft.

Below are our top five traffic headaches in the area. What are you experiencing each day

Wilma Rudolph is a Mess The Governor's Square area is a mess most of the time. Is poor streetlight synchronization the ongoing official-unofficial culprit, or is supply and demand in the area to blame? After we're home and relaxing following the daily commute, most daily commuters would assume that they realize it's not streetlight synchronization issues. The adage that "it’s a good problem to have" is a tough pill to swallow. It’s understandable, but it's difficult.

Tennova and The Missing I-24 Ramp Why was Tennova Medical Center built at its current location? If you assumed access to I-24, you're wrong. Reducing traffic and helping patients with quicker access to the hospital is a great idea, right? A ramp connecting our only city hospital to the adjacent interstate would benefit everyone, wouldn't it? A new access ramp would reduce the daily Wilma Rudolph Blvd traffic associated with I-24 while also giving ambulances, and others seeking emergency treatment, faster access to Tennova Hospital. When was the last time a politician seriously lobbied TDOT for that specific hospital ramp on I-24? When was personal gain last involved? Just look back at the original justification for Tennova's current location. If you know one answer, the second answers itself.

101st Airborne Parkway One of the earliest examples of missed opportunities can be found at the 101st Airborne Parkway. Former Montgomery County Executive Bob Thompson believed the potential for future commercial development on the 101st Parkway warranted six lanes of traffic to effectively connect Fort Campbell Boulevard with Wilma Rudolph Boulevard - while still accounting for future growth. The final decision was made on four lanes, the same number of lanes currently in use today. When was your last trip down those four lanes of 101st Parkway? It's impossible to not notice the consistent growth, such as the Lowe's Center businesses, hundreds of new homes, and apartments. Is a Walmart store complimented, or compounded, by fresh rumors of potential fresh developments? We can only imagine the future commuting headaches when the parkway expansion begins its construction.

Last month, we learned of interesting changes tied to a future connection of 101st to Cumberland Heights. Without complimented lane widening projects, it's unavoidable that 101st Parkway will only experience greater headaches for existing travelers. Cheers!

Time has shown Thompson was right way back when...

MLK Boulevard The number of neighborhoods feeding into MLK Blvd is deceiving. Thousands of drivers are pouring onto MLK Boulevard in search of I-24, Madison Street, or Riverside access. Most of those neighborhoods have been on the cusp of the area for decades, with no changes being made to address future traffic flow challenges. As the new neighborhoods and businesses add to the spine of MLK, its fragile traffic flow becomes prohibitive. These congestion issues will only continue to grow as Sango and the MLK Blvd areas continue to blossom. "Longtime residents don't become experts in transportation based on tenure." - Alexander Garvin, CEO of AGA Public Realm Strategists

Tiny Town Road Not that long ago, Northeast High School's perimeter was fenced to keep wild animals and nearby cows from wandering onto campus. That's likely unimaginable to new residents experiencing traffic delays related to hundreds of new homes, dozens of retail shops, offices, and restaurants. The Tiny Town & Trenton Road area has developed into a much smaller yet maturing option for the Wilma Rudolph business demographic. A review of the larger area's potential, beginning at Fort Campbell Boulevard and Trenton Road, shows a rapid growth pattern throughout Tiny Town. Feeling ambitious? Take a ride on Trenton Road across I-24 and view the expansion of homes on old farmlands running parallel to the interstate. The attraction of the area is unironically related to commuting, as it’s a great jumping-off point for Hopkinsville, Nashville, and other interstate points in Clarksville.

The challenges of a booming population are plentiful and require patience. Is growth a bad thing? I would say "no." but a steady stream of strongly-worded weekly emails doesn't always agree with that sentiment.

The uncomfortable truth is that traffic issues are never quick fixes. While the system slowly works to improve traffic conditions, we are each left with three options: plan ahead, leave early, and relax.