-- Fifteen of the most contentious highway construction
Moving quickly to
fulfill Gov. Phil Bredesen's campaign pledge to
He asked transportation
researchers at the University of Tennessee to
While almost anyone with a little clout can propose a road -- the governor, a legislator, a community, even TDOT -- final approval rests with the TDOT commissioner, following a series of feasibility, engineering and environmental studies, and at least one or two public hearings.
On the biggest projects,
inception to bid letting can take seven years,
Only weeks after taking office, the genial Nicely found himself on a snowy night in Knoxville listening to a succession of organized opponents and occasional supporters of three roads projects proposed for East Tennessee.
One group already has a federal court injunction against the 4.5-mile extension of Pellissippi Parkway in Blount County over environmental concerns. Another plans a lawsuit against a 38-mile ``Orange Route'' beltway around Knoxville, named for the dominant school color for the University of Tennessee. And, the third group opposes an extension of James White Parkway through the center of the city.
Nicely made no guarantees about what will happen to the projects. ``All I can do is promise ... a just evaluation without any preconceptions,'' he said.That was enough, for now. An audience that complained of being ignored by TDOT in the past applauded the new commissioner.
``I am happy and pleased
with the governor and how the new commissioner is handling this. They
are at least listening to my constituents,'' said state
Bittle lives in Hardin Valley, a pastoral though increasingly suburban section of north Knox County that's in the path of the proposed $273 million interstate-eligible Route 475 beltway around Knoxville, linking I-40 on the west with I-75 on the north.
Bittle said former
Gov. Don Sundquist promised to spare Hardin Valley,
Among the other projects under review: expanding U.S. Highway 127 near Crossville; a new route to connect U.S. 19 to Tri-Cities Regional Airport; and the Walnut Grove Road relocation project through open public land near Memphis known as Shelby Farms.
The Interstate 840 routes around Nashville, the partially built 78-mile South route and a proposed 108-mile North route, are also at the top of the list. A citizens group recently filed a fourth lawsuit -- against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- over the environmental impact of 840 South in Williamson County.
``Each project is different and the issues that have become a matter of public debate are different,'' said Stephen Richards, director of UT's Transportation Center, which specializes in studies related to roads, highway safety, transportation policy, regulation and mass transit.
In each case, analysts will try to determine whether all interests were weighed and all voices heard, Richards said.
``It won't be our purpose to say the Orange Route was a totally inappropriate decision, for example,'' Richards said. ``We will simply be looking at it from the standpoint of whether all steps were followed, was the appropriate input received from the public and was that information properly evaluated.
''Those are key issues for Nicely, who said TDOT must do better in soliciting public comment and addressing environmental concerns.Supporters and critics of the Knoxville Beltway who spoke with Nicely found little common ground, either in opinion or fact.
``We believe that
a Knoxville Beltway is needed and that after a
Richard's group contends
studies show that without the beltway, which
But Citizens Against
Beltway Orange Location, or CABOL, doesn't believe the
A dozen chambers of
commerce and local governments endorsed the beltway
The selected route
would create a 120-foot-wide ribbon of asphalt and
Eighty homes would
be taken, with nearly 300 more affected by the noise
``Clearly the need
to build the beltway,'' CABOL president Mark Richey said,
Copyright 2002 Associated Press.