Nashville’s urban core has enjoyed numerous improvements to its appearance and functionality in the last decade.
But a 1960s relic remains, recalling the days of unsightly urban renewal design aesthetics: chain-link fencing, some of it with barbed wire, that menacingly mars exits along the city’s downtown inner-interstate loop.
The barbed wire evokes a prison vibe, while the fencing, some segments seemingly securing nothing, sits on Tennessee Department of Transportation-owned right-of-way and is often rusty and infested with weeds. It can be found, for example, at the Demonbreun Street exit on both sides of Interstate 40/65; on either side of the Division Street bridge near The Gulch; at Exit 209 at I-40/65; and at the Eighth Avenue North/I-65 exit. Near the loop, more barbed wire fencing can be found (for example, at the Wedgewood Avenue I-65 exit).
Recently, TDOT removed the barbed wire from fencing along 14th Avenue between Church Street and Broadway. But the fence still stands, although it does nothing to secure the area — a person or animal wanting to descend the ravine into the interstate gulch could simply sidestep guardrails along the viaducts.
Julie Oaks, TDOT spokeswoman, said the department’s design standards call for chain-link fencing in urban areas that require securing, but barbed wire is no longer used “for new projects.”
Oaks said TDOT would need to spend about $25 to $35 per foot (or $132,000 to $184,800 per mile) to replace and update metal fencing.
Stephanie McCullough, Nashville Civic Design Center communications director, said the fencing contradicts guidelines set forth in The Plan of Nashville. The plan notes that removing chain-link fencing would “improve the quality of life on the roads and on adjacent properties” without harming the function or capacity of the interstate system.
“I spoke with a resident of north Nashville [recently], who coincidentally expressed her frustration with the fences, but as an ‘easel’ for signage advertising parties and other events,” McCullough said. “In that way, the fences are a negative to the adjacent neighborhoods.”