So yesterday, unless you totally stayed off all forms of social media, you probably heard about the News Sentinel's big Sunday story: The Tennessee Department of Transportation has for all intents and purposes decided to go ahead and build the James White Parkway extension, even though the majority of comments they received were opposed to the project and even though Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero has politely told them to go to hell.
Well, today TDOT has (kind of) changed their minds. Instead of announcing next week which of the three routes they'll build, the agency has decided to wait until October, hold two more public meetings, take more public comment, and see if a newly announced "Modified Green Alternative" will bring more consensus.
In a press release sent out this afternoon, TDOT says:
Based on conversations with local officials and comments received from the James White Parkway Extension public hearing held on December 6, 2012, TDOT has developed a "Modified Green Alternative" that further minimizes impacts to the Urban Wilderness, reduces residential and business relocations, and reduces the total amount of Right of Way needed to build the project.
"The Modified Green Alternative has a boulevard design, which reduces the footprint of the project and the impacts to the Urban Wilderness, which was one of the primary concerns we heard during the public comment period," said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. "This proposal not only minimizes the impacts to trails, but also provides an opportunity to connect some of Knoxville's bicycle and pedestrian facilities while also still fulfilling the initial purpose and need of the project."
You can read the full release over here and look at the pretty picture of the route here. But, you, know, it's still a four-lane highway. And, as such, it's not green in the least. (Sorry, guys. Greenwashing a highway isn't really gonna work.)
The mayor isn't buying it either. Rogero just sent out a press release stating her continued opposition to the project.
I appreciate that Commissioner Schroer has extended the comment period regarding the James White Parkway extension in order to hear from the public about a modified parkway design vs. the no-build option.
A parkway with lanes for biking and walking is definitely preferable to an interstate design, and I appreciate TDOT's willingness to make those design alterations in response to local concerns.
However I remain firmly opposed to any extension of the James White Parkway through our growing urban wilderness area. The Urban Wilderness has already achieved national recognition as an outdoor recreation destination and is a key economic development and tourism opportunity for our city, region and state. The proposed parkway will bisect this regional asset and plow through the existing and proposed trail network and wilderness assets. It will divert traffic from Chapman Highway businesses.
I support major safety improvements and enhancements to Chapman Highway, Alcoa Highway, and other existing roads and highways that serve our region. We should work together regionally to create the future we want through smarter development and transportation patterns, rather than destroy this wonderful economic and environmental asset on the basis of projected future traffic needs.
I strongly encourage everyone to study the alternatives; to think of our future as a city, county, and region; and to respectfully and unambiguously express their opinions during the input period.
We'll have more -- much, much more! -- in this week's dead-tree edition, but if you want to go ahead and get a jump on things, send those public comments in. E-mail TDOT.email@example.com, or send a formal letter to:
Public Hearing Comments
Attn: James White ParkwayTennessee Department of TransportationSuite 700, James K. Polk Building505 Deaderick StreetNashville, TN 37243-0332
Be polite, of course, but make your opinions known.