Known affectionately as the Bill Morris Parkway, or The Nonconnah, or just simply 385, three decades and $500 million later, the finishing touches on the Highway 385 loop around Shelby County are almost done.
This project started back in the early 1980s and will not only make coming and going in eastern and northern Shelby County easier, but will also take a lot of traffic off the I-240 loop.
The economic impact of cities like Collierville and Piperton will feel after the last part of the road opens up in November.
No matter what name you use Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner calls it one thing - a big positive for his still growing city
"It's exciting, and it's good to see things in light of what we've gone through since 2008 be on the uptick," said Mayor Joyner. "We're poised and ready for it."
When the Tennessee State Highway 385 Project finally comes full circle in November, all of Shelby County will be connected like never before.
No more winding routes from Millington to Collierville, and easier route to I-40 eastbound.
"So you'll be able to come from Millington all the way around 385 and back to 240," said TDOT's Jason Baker.
Highway 385 has been completed in three phases. The first phase started in the early 1980s and wrapped up in 1998. Known as the Paul W. Barret Parkway, it linked U.S. Highway 51 to U.S. 70-79 east of Millington. Next came the Bill Morris Parkway. Construction started in 1990 and wrapped up in 2007, connecting I-240 to State Road 57 east of Collierville.
The third phase, which will be completed in 10 months, is the Winfield Dunn Parkway which connects U.S. 70 to the Bill Morris Parkway.
The idea of a loop around eastern Shelby County was not just to move motorists who live far east of Memphis into and out of the city, but also to alleviate some of the traffic, particularly truck traffic that tends to clog I-240 trying to get onto I-55 South.
"It's a huge benefit, moving both freight and people, especially with the other projects going on such as the intermodal facility that's being developed in Piperton," Baker said. "It's a huge asset to movement."
The 385 project has also been a selling point to residents of eastern Shelby County for years. When they build it, dollars will come.
In Collierville for instance, realtors project an increase in property value, and its leaders have already rezoned properties around the highway anticipating businesses to move in.
"We, from a visioning point looked at our existing land use plan, the way we wanted those areas to build out," Mayor Joyner said. "We've actually modified and changed them simply based on the fact that there are going to be large intersections there. I think when it's open, we're going to see an uptick in the interest in those particular intersections there."
The completion of I-385 is not the end of this story. In fact, work has already begun on yet another phase of roadwork to connect eastern Shelby and western Fayette counties with points beyond the Tennessee state line.
Within the next three years, this section of state highway will merge with the Interstate 269 project, which will eventually lead to Tunica County and a junction with I-55.
But all of this growth leading away from Memphis doesn't sit well with everyone.
"Our primary concerns with project 269, is it's an extraordinary amount of money that's not going to serve the entire community," said Sarah Norstok of Livable Memphis.
Norstok believes the I-269 project will be nothing but a drain on the city of Memphis from its livability and its economy.
"The main reason why is because our region as a population is not growing," she said. "So when we build things like this and we talk about development, we're not growing the pie. We are just moving the pieces around within the same number of limited resources. So while it's great for some people, some areas stand to gain a lot from this development, it's just leaving behind another neighborhood that's already existed."
Mayor Joyner understands her concerns, but the majority of his citizens are on board and excited about the flow these new arteries will create to his city and the entire region.
"We've had interest in the past from hotels, other shopping opportunities, some warehouse-type opportunities obviously," the mayor said. "Yeah, I think it's really going to be great."
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