Creating Places: A Citizen Observer's Look at Nashville's Built Environment

Writer's Note: William Williams' interest in the manmade environment dates to 1970, at which point the then-young Williams started a collection of postcards of city skylines. The collection now numbers 1,000-plus cards. Among the writer's specific interests are exterior building design, city district planning, demographics, signage, mixed-use development, mass transit and green/sustainable construction and living. Williams began his Creating Places column with The City Paper in February 2005. The column in its original form was discontinued in September 2008 and reinvented via this blog in November 2008. Creating Places can be found on the home page of the website of The City Paper, at which Williams has worked in various capacities since October 2000.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hillsboro Road Update — Disheartening

I contacted TDOT earlier this week to see if the recently announced Hillsboro Road improvement project will include curbs, sidewalks and a stormwater drainage/management system. No, no and no.

Typical TDOT

To be fair, the agency's adding a center turn lane will be helpful. And the department does intend to improve the road's shoulders and the ditches above which the street perilously snakes. 

Still, we can all imagine what's about to happen. Drive along the stretch (from I-440 on the north to Crestmoor on the south) and see a handful of huge trees seemingly tagged for removal, their lush shade to go with them. A TDOT official told me that adding even one sidewalk (which would have been prime for the street's condo-heavy east side) would be expensive, given land-acquisition costs. Fair enough. But to not even add curbs, which require minimal (if any) land acquisition? Curbed streets suggest "urban streets." Non-curbed suggest "highway" or "interstate." Oh, I forgot, this is TDOT. Even if the ditches are modified so as to minimize potential danger, they will remain unsightly and still somewhat hazardous. 

Also, TDOT plans to add along certain segments of the road some retaining walls and metal guardrails. Example of the latter can be seen on nearby I-440 and have a "brown powder coating." Expect ugliness.

In terms of aesthetics and the chance to have created a somewhat more pedestrian-oriented and urban street, this project spurs no more excitement than the thought of my next prostate check-up.


  1. No real surprises here. They've been building on Hillsboro Rd right up to the street for YEARS.

    Although a middle turn lane there is probably necessary, I fear it will quickly become the informal and dangerous "merge" lane, with cars making half of their left turn on to the street, then getting up speed to merge with traffic while oncoming cars are trying to use the lane for it's intended purpose: a turn lane! This is the epidemic that we see on many Nashville streets, just drive down Gallatin or Nolensville, for example.

    A safer and cheaper solution would be to severely limit the amount of left turns allowed from parking lots on to Hillsboro, while greatly increasing the pedestrian access.

  2. Hillsboro Rd is a prime candidate for sidewalks and bikeways. Prime shopping, high population density, schools, post office, dry cleaners, groceries. No one in the area can walk or bike to these areas because the facilities SUCK.

    What happened to the state mandate to include bike/ped facilities? Karl Dean rode 6 miles in the rain,and spoke at BTW day. He announced the road improvement project.

    If we don't get bike/ped facilities, 20 years from now we'll get another chance.

  3. There is NO reason to build a center lane from Woodmont South to the mall, simply because there is already one there (including a traffic light into the strip mall at Starbucks/Kalamatas/Elan Spa).

    All this will do is encourage traffic to cut-through the residential neighborhoods around HIllsboro Pk. TDOT should be encouraging people to use alternate modes of transportation to get around this part of town. Trust me, if I could ride my bike from my house to Trader Joe's without worrying about getting mowed down by a soccer mom in her Escalade, I would. Right now I relegate my bike riding to Sat. and Sunday mornings.

  4. I run home from work in downtown Nashville to my home in Green Hills. I run on Hillsboro Road which is admittedly dangerous but that is the direct route to my house. This will definitely end that commute. In the mornings I catch the bus to work on Hillsboro. Supposedly there will still be bus stops on Hillsboro but I am wondering just how much space they will give us. The stops are dangerous enough as is having to straddle ditches. On the days that I ride my bike to work I have to go extra mileage over to Belmont Blvd because Hillsboro lacks a bike lane. Very disappointing to see an opportunity to add bike lanes/sidewalks being squandered.

  5. Hey there William. I enjoyed your most current article in the City Paper in the CityLife / Spice section about David Mitchell's deli, that place is awesome. I was thinking, a great piece for the City/Life Spice would be Jimmy Carl's Lunchbox inside of the Station Inn. The owners Pat Isbey (who I think you know of) and Russell Nelson have a crazy story of how it came about. Russ won a game show and Pat did a doc. for the Station Inn years ago. You should check it out.

  6. David,

    Thanks for the recommendation on Jimmy Carl's. I'm actually writing the story for The City Paper and am visiting Pat and Russell this Tuesday (7/21).


  7. Nashville would be so much more enjoyable if it were a "pedestrian" city.
    Also, the fact that so many of Nashville's jobs are moving from the city to the new, hulking office buildings in Cool Springs, requiring people to drive from the city all the way out to Cool Springs for work everyday, is distressing.
    Josh O.