TDOT unveils new alternative for James White Parkway Extension

TDOT unveils new 'green' alternative for James White Parkway Extension; decision delayed for public comment

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The Tennessee Department of Transportation has unveiled a new "green" alternative for the James White Parkway Extension, The Tennessee Department of Transportation has unveiled a new "green" alternative for the James White Parkway Extension,

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Tennessee Department of Transportation unveiled a new alternative for the James White Parkway Extension Monday.

The agency postponed a decision on moving forward on construction of the extension until it receives comments from the public.

Based on conversations with local officials and comments received from a public hearing held on Dec. 6, 2012, TDOT has developed a "Modified Green Alternative," designed to minimize impacts to urban wilderness, reduce residential and business relocation, and reduce 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 in a release. "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."

A task force authorized by the Knoxville City Council in 2002 envisioned Chapman Highway as a thriving business district and the James White Parkway Extension as simply a means to move traffic. The task force also determined that reducing the predicted high volume of traffic on Chapman Highway was the only way to significantly reduce crash rates.

Chapman Highway is currently the primary north-south multi-lane corridor available for motorists traveling to and from southern Knox County, the Seymour portion of Sevier County, and northeast Blount County.

TDOT accepted the task force's recommendations and moved forward with the environmental phase of the project, which led to the development of several build alternatives for the James White Parkway Extension project.

TDOT is planning to hold two community meetings in early October to share the details of the "Modified Green Alternative" and allow the public to submit comments. Specific details about the meetings have not yet been released.


Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero releases statement

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero released a statement Monday afternoon on the plan and extended comment period.

"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," she said in the release.

Mayor Rogero says a parkway with lanes for biking and walking is preferable to an interstate design, but she remains opposed to any parkway extension through the growing urban wilderness area.

A conceptual rendering of the "Modified Green Alternative" can be viewed at http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/sr71/ .


Residents near route not persuaded

Brian Hann has spent the last several years working on the trails connecting Knoxville's urban wilderness.

"We don't see the "Green Alternative" to be a better option at all," Hann said.

His South Knoxville home connects to several of the trails and the new proposal for the James White Parkway would back right up to his property. 

"It may miss a trail here and there but at the end of the day it's not about the trails, it's about our community, it's about neighborhoods, it's about people wanting to move to this area to live here," Hann explained.

Carla and Jay Basile moved into their historic South Knoxville log cabin to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

"We moved here for the recreational aspect and [the parkway] would basically eliminate that," said Jay Basile. 

The new proposal would place the James White Parkway about 200 feet from the Basile's home they estimate, threatening the life they've built.

"It would completely change the dynamic, I guess there's the noise and the pollution issue and effect a large part of what we do," Carla Basile said. 

TDOT says the James White Parkway is needed to reduce the traffic congestion on Chapman Highway, saying it's the only significant way to reduce crash rates.

"[The additional public comment] shows they're recognizing the fact this is a big issue for South Knoxville," said Hann.

But for Hann and the Basile's the only alternative would be for it to stop where it is, keeping the roar of the traffic away from the quiet of the urban wilderness they've come to love.

"It'd be a huge disappointment," Carla Basile explained. "We came out here with the intent to look out our window and see the pleasant we see now."

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