September 5, 2019, Nancy DeGennaro, The Daily News Journal
“Bridge Over Broad” was christened Blue Raider Bridge in a special ceremony Thursday that welcomed local, state and Middle Tennessee State University dignitaries.
Blue Raider Bridge, the name chosen as a nod to MTSU’s Blue Raider mascot, is representative of the university’s impact on Rutherford County and surrounding communities, said MTSU President Sidney McPhee.
“We’re known as one of the best town-and-gown relationships between a university and a city, and that comes with a great deal of dedication and commitment by our city officials, citizens and clearly those of us at the university,” McPhee said.
McPhee said the naming further confirms the city and county’s standing as one of the South’s best college towns, noted by Southern Living magazine in 2016. The 2020 Princeton Review named MTSU among the nation’s best.
Incoming freshman class numbers are up 14% over last year and there’s also been in increase of transfer students, making MTSU the top choice for students enrolled in the Tennessee Promise program, McPhee said.
“(The bridge naming) is just one of many examples of how successful the university and this community have been over the years. Frankly one of my perspectives is it’s one of the reasons we’ve had explosive growth,” McPhee said.
The Blue Raider Bridge naming comes on the heels of the ribbon cutting for the newly revamped Middle Tennessee Boulevard corridor, serving as an “impressive gateway” to the university, McPhee said.
“We’re celebrating another impressive improvement that has changed the character and certainly the face of our city and our county,” said MTSU President Sidney McPhee. “It’s a magnificent and beautiful addition to our community.”
The $22.8 million project, which took nearly four years to complete, allows traffic to continuously flow from Old Fort Parkway to Memorial Boulevard without stopping at the Northwest Broad Street intersection.
For those long years of roadway construction, the bridge was known as Bridge Over Broad — BOB, for short. But a more comical nickname was put in place after officials called for suggestions on what to name the bridge.
“On April 1 (of 2018) we did a joke and named (the bridge) after there was almost 5,000 people who asked to name the bridge Bridgey McBridgeface,” said Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland, who agreed to issue the day-long proclamation on April Fool’s Day.
Blue Raider Bridge became the official choice.
Choosing a name for the bridge was easy, said McFarland, an MTSU graduate.
“But the hard part was the hours and hours and days and years that we’ve spent working on the concept and getting this urban interchange bridge built,” McFarland said.
The project — more than a decade in the making — was expected to relieve congestion at an intersection projected to 72,740 vehicle trips per day by 2034, which is an increase of 14,080 from the 2014 count of 58,660.
Blue Raider Bridge is another step in the infrastructure enhancements planned for Murfreesboro, McFarland said.
Middle Tennessee Boulevard corridor was recently completed and work is under way on New Salem Highway. There are plans to revamp St. Clair Street and eventually, there will be a similar bridge interchange at Thompson Lane and Northwest Broad Street.
“One thing we’ve continually said is we want MTSU and the city of Murfreesboro to be a partner, to be able to make this city the best that it can possibly be,” McFarland said. “We want people to be able to be able to lessen their drive time by driving to jobs in Murfreesboro and we do that through the partnership with our university.”
Reach reporter Nancy DeGennaro at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @NanDeGennaro.