TDOT Halts Highway Construction for Busy Holiday Travel Period

TDOT Halts Highway Construction for Busy Holiday Travel Period
No Lane Closures on Interstates and State Routes from December 23 to January 5

Road construction won’t delay travelers during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is once again halting all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state.

No temporary lane closures will be allowed for construction on Tennessee roadways beginning at noon on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 through 9:00 a.m. on Monday, January 5, 2015.

“With two million drivers expected to travel Tennessee roadways during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it’s imperative that we do everything possible to keep traffic moving and minimize congestion,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “We also want to keep our roadways safe. Our law enforcement partners will be out in full force, so wear your seat-belt, reduce your speed, avoid distractions, and don’t drive if you’ve been drinking.”

Except for a few long-term closures which must remain in place for safety, all construction related closures will be suspended during the holiday period. Workers may still be on-site in some construction zones. Drivers should obey all posted speed limits, particularly in construction areas. Slower speeds are necessary in work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway and will be enforced. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of $250 to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums.

AAA predicts holiday travel will increase about 4.8% in Tennessee this year, with two million expected to travel by automobile in the volunteer state between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Across the U.S., 89.5 million people are expected to drive to their holiday destinations. The year-end holiday season should see the highest travel volume since 2001, and Christmas day gas prices should be the lowest since 2008.

Updated travel and construction information can be found on the TDOT SmartWay website at or you may call 5‑1‑1. You can also receive traffic alerts via TDOT’s multiple Twitter feeds, including statewide traffic tweets @TN511 or any of TDOT’s other Twitter pages.

Smartphone users can download TDOT’s new SmartWay web application at to access TDOT’s live streaming SmartWay cameras, dynamic message signs, incidents, construction, and road conditions on interstates and state routes.

As always, drivers are reminded to use all motorist information tools wisely and Know Before You Go! by checking travel conditions before leaving for their destination. Drivers should never tweet, text or talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel.



Middle Tennessee Goodwill Gears Up For Last-Minute Donations Surge

Goodwill Gears Up For Last-Minute Donations Surge
Record Number of Donors Expected

Each year from Dec. 26-31, the number of donations at Goodwill Donation Express Centers skyrockets.

In 2013, donations of clothing and household goods during that period rose by 80 percent compared to other days of the year. Goodwill’s donation team is gearing up to handle this critically important surge.

Donations fund Goodwill’s mission of providing employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities and others who have trouble finding and keeping jobs. The end-of-year donation rush is prompted in part by people cleaning out their closets, attics and garages to make room for holiday gifts. But many donors also are seeking last-minute tax deductions.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when donating to Goodwill:

● When de-cluttering your home, consider the “One-Year Rule”: If you haven’t worn it, used it or played with it in one year, it is probably time to donate it.
● Donors wishing to claim a tax deduction should request a receipt from the attendant when dropping off their donations. The IRS allows a deduction for each item, but it is up to the donor to estimate each item’s value.
● Prepare an inventory of your items before going to Goodwill.
● Please remove hangers from clothing.
● If you have a single donation worth more than $500, you will need to complete IRS Form 8283. You will also need a qualified written appraisal.
● Be certain you are donating to a legitimate charity. Resources for research include the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office and charity-rating agencies such as GuideStar. Be cautious of donation bins that don’t clearly state the organization’s mission and contact information.

You can avoid the rush by donating before Christmas. There are about 80 Donations Express Centers located throughout the 48-county territory, and most are open seven days a week. Locations and hours can be found online at, under the “Donate” tab.

Your donation at the end of 2014 will mean a happier new year for someone in need of a job.



Tennessee Governor Haslam Names Candice McQueen Education Commissioner

Haslam Names Candice McQueen Education Commissioner
Teacher, Dean of Lipscomb University’s College of Education to Lead Department

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today announced that Dr. Candice McQueen, a teacher and dean at Lipscomb University in Nashville, will join his cabinet as commissioner of the Department of Education.

McQueen, 40, currently serves on Lipscomb University’s executive leadership team as senior vice president, and as dean she oversees the College of Education as well as the 1,300 pre-k through 12th grade students in three schools at Lipscomb Academy. She has led training, support and professional development efforts for thousands of current and future classroom teachers, instructional coaches and school leaders. Before joining Lipscomb in 2001, McQueen was a teacher in elementary and middle schools.

“Lipscomb’s College of Education produces some of our state’s best teachers, and Candice gets a lot of credit for that,” Haslam said. “She has taught in a classroom, so she brings both the experience of being a teacher and of preparing teachers to teach. I am grateful for her willingness to serve in this role, and I know she’ll do a great job as we continue our efforts to provide a quality education for all Tennessee students.”

McQueen’s college and teacher preparation programs have been highlighted at the state and national levels for excellence in teacher preparation design and teacher candidate outcomes. In her six years as dean, Lipscomb’s College of Education has grown by 54 percent with 72 percent growth at the graduate level, has added 15 new graduate programs, including a doctorate, and has created innovative partnerships that focus on collaborative design and delivery for coursework and programming.

In 2012, McQueen partnered with the Tennessee-based Ayers Foundation to initiate The Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation, which focuses on supporting higher academic standards, embedded professional learning and new approaches to leadership training and support. Tennessee’s higher education institutions are using the resources to prepare new teachers and many Tennessee school districts and other states are using the resources for professional development.

“I have spent most of my career focused on developing and supporting educators to help our students succeed, and I look forward to bringing that experience and perspective to the important work of leading the Department of Education,” McQueen said. “Tennessee is headed in the right direction. We are making a real difference in the lives of our children and the future of our state. My goal is for every graduate to be college and career-ready so they can succeed in the future. I want Tennessee to continue to set the pace and lead the nation in the reforms and innovations that are making a real difference in the lives of our students.”

McQueen serves on the board of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the executive committee for the American Association of Independent and Liberal Arts Colleges of Teacher Education. She is frequently asked to serve as an expert on teacher preparation issues by groups such as the Aspen Institute, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the Lumina Foundation.

McQueen was also named to the first Leadership Tennessee class in 2013 and serves on numerous boards, including the PENCIL Foundation’s executive board, State Collaborative on Reforming Education’s steering committee, STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) Nashville, and the Mayor’s Youth Master Plan Leadership Council.

McQueen, a native of Clarksville, has a bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb, a master’s from Vanderbilt, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. She and her husband, Andy McQueen, a law partner at Bass, Berry and Sims, live in Nashville and have two children, Abigail, 11, and Henry, 8.

McQueen replaces Kevin Huffman who announced his departure last month. Her first day on the job will be Tuesday, January 20.



GRAY’S on Main Announces New Year’s Eve Event - Dance Party

GRAY’S on Main Announces New Year’s Eve Event - Dance Party
Rings In the New Year With “Mo-Jazz Revue” Party & Live Entertainment

GRAY’S on Main prides itself on throwing events that harken back to the restaurant’s historical roots. On December 31, 2014 the venue will toast to the New Year while once again nodding to the past: a vintage Vaudeville-themed event titled “Mo-Jazz Revue” will include a prix fixe menu, live entertainment and a musical walk-through of the decades.

From 8 p.m. ‘til 1 a.m., New Year’s Eve guests can expect an evening filled with dancing, musical entertainment and a supper club-like atmosphere. In addition to the diverse ambience, guests will be able to enjoy gourmet appetizers and handcrafted cocktails that celebrate the theme. From Josephine Baker to Frank Sinatra, from the Charleston to the Twist—partygoers will have a chance to dance through the decades with the soulful sounds of Marquee Mayfield.

“We chose to honor these decades because it goes hand-in-hand with GRAY’S storied past and artisanal approach,” said Michael Cole, events coordinator and co-owner of GRAY’s on Main. “Our focus on history is seen in our d├ęcor, dishes and spirits, and we’ll use this evening to inspire another level of creativity and innovation.”

Cole says that GRAY’S on Main will build on an experience similar to a turn-of-the-century bash, as the wait-staff will be appropriately attired and the three-story building will be dressed with warm lighting and dramatic drapes for the themed night.

Those who wish to attend can purchase a single ticket for $65 or a couples ticket for $100—each including heavy appetizers, a drink ticket, the Marquee Mayfield performance and a champagne toast. Guests are encouraged to channel their best Moulin Rouge impressions, and break out their swankiest attire.

On New Year’s Eve, GRAY’S is also accepting reservations on its first floor from 5:00 p.m. until midnight for a chef-selected, four-course meal and complimentary glass of champagne for a cost of $75 per person. Guests who wish to participate in both the downstairs chef-selected meal and the New Year’s Eve party can do so for $110 per person.

For more information about New Year’s Eve at GRAY’S on Main, visit To purchase tickets for the party or to make first-floor dinner reservations, call (615) 435-3603 *limited seating and tickets are available.



American Country Countdown Awards - LIVE from Nashville

Hosted by Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, the American Country Countdown Awards is based on country music’s longest-running radio countdown show, “American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks,” and will honor country music’s biggest stars based on album sales and radio airplay.

Performers include Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Kelly Clarkson, Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Hank Williams, Jr.

The inaugural American Country Countdown Awards, airs LIVE from Nashville’s Music City Center on Monday, Dec.15 (8:00-10:00 PM ET live/PT tape delayed) on FOX.

Presenters include country artists Kix Brooks, Sara Evans, Hunter Hayes, Maddie & Tae, Scotty McCreery, Thomas Rhett, Chase Rice and Chris Young. NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and 2014 National League MVP Clayton Kershaw, actors Emily Kinney (“The Walking Dead”) and Melissa Fumero (BROOKLYN NINE-NINE) and Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev will also present.

The two-hour show will also honor Kenny Chesney with The Groundbreaker Award, which recognizes an artist who has consistently pushed the boundaries and is a trailblazer in the realm of concerts, musical accomplishment, creative innovation and connecting with fans across the United States.

Chesney will be on hand to accept his award. Multimedia entertainer Reba will receive the first-ever NASH Icon Award, presented by Kix Brooks, which celebrates an iconic artist whose extraordinary talent has influenced generations of musicians and who has made a profound and lasting impact on country music. Kelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert will join together to honor Reba with a special tribute performance.

The American Country Countdown Awards is produced by dick clark productions. Allen Shapiro (CEO, dick clark productions), Mike Mahan (President, dick clark productions), Mark Bracco (Executive Vice President, Programing and Development, dick clark productions), John Dickey (Executive Vice President of Content and Programming, Cumulus), Richard Godfrey (“MTV Europe Music Awards”) and Tom Forrest (“CMT Crossroads”) are executive producers. Baz Halpin is co-executive producer. For more information, please visit:


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