$71M grant will fund major improvements on Lamar Avenue

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Lamar Avenue

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Lamar Avenue will be getting an upgrade to first class thanks to a $71.2 million federal grant announced Tuesday.

“This is a huge win for Memphis and will be a game-changer for our city and the region,” said Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation who serves on the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

The planned improvements include widening Lamar Avenue from four to six lanes, from the Tennessee-Mississippi state line continuing north to the current six-lane section at Getwell Road. Three congested intersections would also be upgraded to new interchanges, the Tennessee Department of Transportation said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the long-awaited improvements to Lamar will mean more efficiency in the city’s distribution sector and more traffic to the BNSF intermodal freight facility.

“Simply put, this will mean more jobs and more economic growth for Memphis,” Strickland said.

Rep. David Kustoff called the grant a major win for transportation and commerce in West Tennessee.

“Lamar Avenue is a critical freight corridor for the entire region and has been a priority of mine since day one,” Kustoff said in a statement. “I want to thank Secretary Chao and President Trump for working with me to build on the public and private investments already being made to support infrastructure in the Greater Memphis area.”

Lamar Avenue is a heavily trafficked commercial and industrial corridor through the city’s logistics hub, but has suffered from narrow stretches and congested traffic  from Getwell to the Mississippi state line.

The Greater Memphis Chamber says 20 Fortune 500 companies are located along the corridor, which runs near the FedEx World Hub. The group called it a critical link in the national and global supply chain that supports 71,000 jobs.

The upgrades will create 1,500 permanent jobs, plus nearly 2,000 short-term construction jobs related to the project, the Chamber said.

The DOT’s Lamar grant is one of 26 grants awarded Tuesday throughout the United States and is the only grant in the state of Tennessee, the Chamber said.

In 2016, the state applied for $180 million to widen a five-mile section. The total cost of needed upgrades to Lamar was estimated then at $300 million.

Construction will begin this fall on a 1.4-mile section from the Mississippi state line to Shelby Drive.

Work will begin in fall 2020 for the 1.9 miles from south of Shelby Drive to near the Raines Road/Perkins Road interchange.

In fall 2021, work will begin near the Raines Road/Perkins Road interchange to Getwell Road, a distance of 1.8 miles.

TDOT says Lamar Avenue supports 535 truck terminals, 19 freight intermodal facilities, four rail yards, and three air and truck terminals. It also directly serves Memphis International Airport and is the home of FedEx world headquarters.

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