If you’ve ever driven through Smyrna at rush hour on a weekday – scratch that, at ANY point during ANY day – you’ve undoubtedly been the victim of what the locals call “Sam Gridley-lock.” It’s one of the most complained about phenomena of living in Smyrna: the traffic clogging up Sam Ridley Parkway on the daily, bringing cars to a standstill for what seems like an eternity.
Since the year 2000, Smyrna’s population has grown by about 39%. It’s a bustling town conveniently situated 20 minutes outside of Nashville, with its growth showing no signs of slowing. Nowhere is this growth more evident than Sam Ridley Parkway, which is crowded with all manner of cars, trucks, and minivans pretty much every day, all day.
The I-24 corridor from Murfreesboro to Nashville, which includes Sam Ridley Parkway, is the most congested corridor in the entire state of Tennessee. And there’s no real prospect of it getting better soon.
Back in July 2015, Toks Omishakin, assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and chief of environment and planning, told the Nashville Business Journal that: “We’ve reached the point where we know we can’t build ourselves out of our traffic woes. The old solution of wider roads isn’t enough to get us beyond the challenges we have.” Apart from the lack of feasibility, it’s been estimated that any widening project covering the I-24 corridor would carry a whopping price tag of at least $600 million.
So if wider roads aren’t a possible solution to deal with the constant congestion, what’s the alternative? One state senator has proposed a monorail spanning from Murfreesboro to Nashville. That option would run at about $1.7 billion in current dollars (more than $2 billion in 2020 dollars). Even rapid bus service would cost several hundreds of millions of dollars to implement, although that presents a more realistic alternative than a monorail.
Since TDOT controls the I-24 corridor and Sam Ridley Parkway, Smyrna officials’ hands are pretty much tied when it comes to easing the traffic burden. As state officials take their time volleying around ideas, the problem continues to worsen.
During the height of traffic hour (4 PM to 7 PM, Monday through Friday), it takes about 25 minutes on average to travel a mere one mile. That’s lots of wasted productivity – enough to suck the life out of an economy that’s otherwise thriving. If you’re among those affected by the congestion crisis, show your solidarity by grabbing our new “I Survived Sam Ridley Parkway” tee. It’s time to wear your frustration on your chest!