Redesigning Plough Boulevard
The intersections of Winchester Road with Plough Blvd and Airways Blvd, just west of the Memphis International Airport (MEM), is an inefficient stretch of road that sees nearly 35,000 cars daily. A vital intersection to MEM, FedEx, and the larger Memphis community, the Plough/Airways/Winchester intersection has long been identified as an area in need of improvement due to significant congestion in the area.
With numerous stakeholders in the project, including TDOT, the City of Memphis, MSCAA, The Aerotropolis Group, MPO, and MATA, improvements have been slow coming. SSR’s involvement with the intersection improvements began in 2004 with a traffic study that was updated in 2011 as a Transportation Planning Report for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). Soon after, the project was handed over to the City of Memphis and progress was halted as the city stepped back to complete a study for the surrounding area — the Memphis Aerotropolis Airport City Master Plan.
In recent years, the project was resurrected, and SSR’s transportation design team has explored different ways to improve traffic flow through the two intersections. One of the major issues identified is the proximity the two intersections have to one another (450 feet), especially given the size of the roads. Our design team specifically looked at traffic flow solutions that consolidated the two intersections.
The original design iteration our team came up with included multiple bridges that allowed continuous traffic flow in multiple directions. Given the proximity to the airport’s runways and involved jurisdictions (specifically the FAA), the design team had to consider tight height restrictions. Getting creative, our team approached the stakeholders with a new solution: if the combined intersection was moved west 150 feet it would fall outside of FAA jurisdiction and alleviate the height restrictions. This also eliminated required security walls and fencing and saved the City of Memphis millions of dollars.
This improved design concept was approved by the airport, FAA, City, and TDOT and the NEPA Document- National Environmental Policy Act is being reviewed by TDOT Environmental now. Once NEPA approval is received, final design work is anticipated to take 6-7 months to complete. Commuters in the area can expect the right-of-way phase to be in early 2023 with construction breaking ground in mid-2024. The project anticipates three years of construction to be finalized, but the project team is already considering a phased approach to construction that will allow for detours and reduce disruption time.