Lamar Avenue close to Holmes Road.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is seeking $180 million in federal grants this year to fund its $300 million project to relieve congestion along Lamar Avenue.
State and local officials gathered in Memphis Tuesday afternoon to announce TDOT's application to the federal FASTLANE program, a new federal program to fund freight and highway projects across the country.
“Lamar Avenue is a nationally significant freight corridor that links interstates, airports, and ports and it’s imperative that we improve its efficiency and capacity now,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “This FASTLANE grant could move these important projects forward years before we may otherwise be able to do so.”
Plans now in development would widen Lamar from four lanes to six from the border of Tennessee and Mississippi to the six-lane section at Getwell. Also, three interchanges will be will be upgraded to interchanges.
All of this and more will cost $300 million, more than half of the dollars TDOT has to spend on projects in all 95 Tennessee counties each year. But TDOT stressed the importance of the road.
"Lamar Avenue is home to more than 20 Fortune 500 companies, and supports over 1,100 transportation, distribution, and logistics companies that employ approximately 42,000 people," TDOT officials said in a statement. "The road serves Memphis International Airport, North America’s largest air cargo airport, and home of FedEx world headquarters. Lamar Avenue also runs parallel to BNSF intermodal yard, which has capacity of one million lifts."
““The Lamar Avenue projects are critical for continued growth of the existing businesses here, as well as the attraction of new businesses,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. “This corridor is key in our efforts to provide job opportunities for our residents and reduce the amount of poverty across the city.”
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said nearly 140,000 people commute into Shelby County to work each day and that addressing congestion on the street is important to the regional economy.
Memphis Chamber of Commerce President Phil Ternary said while Lamar represents just 1 percent of the Memphis area, it accounts for nearly 20 percent of the jobs here.
“The reality is that we have already lost opportunities to bring more businesses and more jobs to Memphis because of the severe deficiencies of this road," Ternary said.
It’s expected the U.S. Department of Transportation will award the $800 million in FASTLANE grants sometime this summer.