Battle brews over road project near battlefield

Jason Reynolds, The Murfreesboro Post, August 28, 2018

Battlefield preservationist Mike Liles points to where a road extension would run behind New Vision Baptist Church to come out near, but not directly in line with, the Stones River National Battlefield’s main entrance. JASON M. REYNOLDS

A citizens group that supports the Stones River National Battlefield is voicing its concerns about the city’s imminent extension of Northfield Boulevard, but they may have run out of time to effect change.

Mike Liles, president of The Friends of the Stones River National Battlefield, is voicing his concerns. Liles is a former Rutherford County Commissioner and state representative.

The extension would come out almost, but not quite, across from the battlefield’s main entrance on Thompson, said Liles, who lives next to the park on Old Nashville Highway. That misalignment on Thompson, a busy road, is a hazard, he said, noting more than 250,000 people visit the park each year.

Liles said city officials have been slow in communicating with him. He said they did try to contact the battlefield’s manager earlier this year, but she had been out of town on a temporary duty assignment.

The Northfield extension is tied into the city’s sale of property on Garrison Drive to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for a clinic. The extension is a condition of the land sale, which is due to close on Aug. 31, Murfreesboro Assistant City Manager Gary Whitaker said. Phase one would run from Thompson behind New Vision Baptist Church to Garrison. A traffic study for the extension has been conducted.

On Thursday, the Murfreesboro City Council voted to abandon a sewer easement at the Vanderbilt site that could have delayed the sale.

Liles said no public debate has been allowed at city meetings, including the Aug. 15 Murfreesboro Planning Commission meeting where that body approved the final plat for Vanderbilt. Meetings held on the third Wednesday of each month are mostly for plat and plan reviews and not for public hearings.

“As one of the closest neighbors, I feel the traffic planning needs major consideration and much input from surrounding areas before it is approved,” Liles wrote to the city in one letter.