TPO votes to remove James White Parkway extension

TPO votes to remove James White Parkway extension

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The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization voted Wednesday to stop plans for the James White Parkway extension. The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization voted Wednesday to stop plans for the James White Parkway extension.
"Things have changed in South Knoxville," said TPO director Jeff Welch. "Things have changed in South Knoxville," said TPO director Jeff Welch.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization voted Wednesday to stop plans for the James White Parkway extension.

The decision removes the project from the four-year Transportation Improvement Program, meaning the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be told to stop all work and plans on the extension.

The vote was unanimous, though the State of Tennessee abstained.

The parkway extension had been in the planning stages for many years, but TPO members said the region was not in favor of the project.

"Things have changed in South Knoxville," said TPO director Jeff Welch. "The project originated 50 years ago, and people have changed, conditions have changed. From their perspective, this is not the way to proceed with improving access and traffic in South Knoxville."

TDOT unveiled a new "green alternative" for the route last week that the agency said would have had a smaller environmental impact, with public meetings for comment scheduled in October.

Several of the proposed routes would have cut through the newly expanded Knoxville Urban Wilderness area.

The group will now focus on other projects like improvements to Chapman Highway.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero called the vote "the final nail in the coffin" for the James White Parkway extension.

"We asked for clarification from TDOT on what they presented today. They said if the region voted for this today, which we had a unanimous vote of regional representatives, then TDOT would cease any further studies, they would not have the public hearings, and they will box it all up, and the project is over," said Mayor Rogero.

According to TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi, removing the project from the TIP means it is no longer eligible for federal funds. Nagi says the majority of the project was planned to be federally funded.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying the vote by TPO effectively stops work on the project. The statement reads in part:

"TDOT will not build projects that aren't supported by communities and our local partners.  Today, we received a clear statement by the current members of the Knoxville TPO that they do not wish to see the project progress.  We will no longer commit any further resources to this project."

The statement also says TDOT remains concerned that its efforts to improve conditions along Chapman Highway will be insufficient.

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