September 1, 2008

Shelby Farms Parkway to Dodge Landfill — Advisers Cite Cost and Waste Concerns

By Tom Charlier

The construction of a carefully landscaped, environmentally sensitive road through Shelby Farms apparently won't involve digging into a landfill.

After reviewing technical studies, the advisory panel overseeing the Shelby Farms Parkway project has recommended against shifting a key interchange southward onto the long-closed penal farm landfill near Walnut Grove and the Wolf River.

The southward shift had been explored as a possible way of making the interchange less intrusive in the 4,500-acre park in East Memphis.

But technical studies concluded that making the move onto the landfill, where much of Shelby County's garbage had been sent for decades, would cost between $6 million and $33 million.

It also would trigger costly new environmental requirements.

"It didn't make any sense," said Laura Adams, deputy director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy and a member of the advisory committee.

"For ($6 million) we could've pushed it a little bit to the south, but not enough to make any difference."

The parkway, some form of which has been on local transportation plans since 1969, will connect Whitten with Walnut Grove, providing a critically needed north-south artery west of Germantown Parkway. But the project was stalled for years by disputes over how best to traverse the park.

County Mayor AC Wharton appointed the advisory committee - made up of representatives from a broad range of interest groups - to develop a "context-sensitive" plan for the road. The proposal developed by the panel called for a curving, landscaped four-lane parkway designed for 40-mph speeds.

No overall cost figures for the parkway have been developed yet.

The interchange, however, remains the most visible component of the road even though its "footprint" has been reduced by modifying a ramp to accommodate speeds of only 25 mph.

County public works director Ted Fox said the firm hired to study the southward shift, Stantec Consulting, also studied bridging the interchange over the landfill.

"From an engineering standpoint that was a definite no-go because of the amount of settlement" of waste into the landfill, he said.

That meant moving the interchange into the landfill site would involve excavating anywhere from 63,000 to 440,000 tons of material to secure the base for it.

Because landfill wastes would be disturbed, the county would have to conduct costly studies and planning to ensure there are no additional environmental problems.

"Once you start breaching the (landfill) cap ... then you go back into having a new closure plan, and that takes time and that takes money," Fox said.

- Tom Charlier: 529-2572

Originally published by Tom Charlier [email protected] .

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