State driveway is a death trap, neighbor saysPosted: Updated:
Monday, the Channel 4 I-Team reported on a mile-long, dead-end stretch of road off of State Route 840 in Williamson County.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation calls it an access road, but it functions as nothing more than a driveway to one man's home.
And there is another road, another remnant of 840, only about a mile away that the state does call a driveway.
But a neighbor calls it a deathtrap.
"The idea was to retire here, move here and die here," neighbor Brad Caldwell said.
Caldwell calls the area his version of Walton's Mountain.
Caldwell has owned his rural family compound nearly 30 years, almost as long as he's been a thorn in the side of TDOT over 840, the highway that paved his paradise.
"Never, ever did I ever anticipate anything like 840 coming across the property, but there it is and here we are," he said
In 1991, 1997 and again in 2006, Channel 4 has covered Caldwell's fight to save the pristine spring water on his property.
Now the road has come, the construction crews are gone and there's a whole new concern in his constant line of sight.
The state calls it a driveway, and it is the only way left to access seven and a half acres landlocked by 840 across a ridge.
TDOT bought up property to bring in the highway. It didn't buy all the land - only what it needed.
By law, they can't leave an owner stranded. There has to be a way in and out, so the state's answer was the steep access road.
"They would have come out far ahead rather than build this absurd access road here," Caldwell said.
He calculated the pitch of the steep incline at more than a 30 percent grade. That is five to six times the incline of I-24 at Monteagle Mountain.
If you ski, think of it as a blue intermediate run.
"I've already heard from some of the neighbors, saying we have crazy teenagers on motorbikes, zooming up on SUVs," Caldwell said.
And Caldwell calls the steep stretch a death trap.
"Somebody's going to get killed," he said.
Caldwell argues the incline alone makes it illegal for a road. And he may be right. The I-Team checked with officials with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation.
The group's standard shows a maximum allowable grade, for even mountainous local roads, of 15 percent.
"There's nothing legal about that. You're gonna kill somebody. Now here's my question - who owns that?" Caldwell said.
The answer is TDOT.
Call it a driveway or a road, it is state right of way, except for a few feet at the very top.
The transportation department opted not to sit down for an interview on this story, but officials called the driveway "the best TDOT could do to provide access," considering the terrain.
And though it's not his land and he's never even met the owner, Caldwell takes the project personally.
"All of it ties into all of us in this community," he said. "The taxpayers of the state of Tennessee paid for this monstrosity. You did, I did, we did."
Channel 4 even heard the paving company on the job, LoJac, left the site because it was too steep to finish safely.
A representative said at first that a 30 percent incline would be too dangerous, but then referred other questions to TDOT.
The Williamson County mayor says he was unaware of the condition of Frontage Road H and this one and will make sure both are in an acceptable condition before the county takes them over.
About 270 properties were acquired to build State Route 840 in Williamson County alone.
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