Citizens, officials differ on Pellissippi Parkway extension
2003-05-23
by Darren Dunlap
of The Daily Times Staff

Some residents said the Tennessee Department of Transportation didn't
get enough public input about the Pellissippi Parkway extension.

Others said that just wasn't the case.

Elected officials relayed the support of local government during the
course of the project's lengthy planning, but some citizens pointed out flaws
in TDOT's process, in its traffic data and environmental assessments.

It was all part of a listening session Thursday held by the University of
Tennessee's Center for Transportation Research at Maryville High School.
About 50 people turned out for the session, the sixth of 19 sessions being held by the center to review 15 TDOT projects.

Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered the project reviews this year, and they are scheduled for completion in July, said Steve Richards, the center director.

The project in question was the proposed construction of 4.4 miles of
four-lane highway from Old Knoxville Highway (state Highway 33) to East
Lamar Alexander Parkway (U.S. 321).

Work to complete the extension was halted last year when a group of
residents, the Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension
(CAPPE), successfully challenged TDOT's environmental assessment in court.

Richards invited Maryville Mayor Steve West and Alcoa Mayer Don Mull to
speak first.

West said the city needs the extension to relieve traffic congestion,
and Mull said TDOT has done ``what we asked them to do.''

``Mass transit may come someday,'' he said. ``But in the near future it's going to be automobiles.''

According to Blount Partnership President and CEO Fred Forster, the county's
growth and traffic are too much for the ``hub and spoke'' road design of its agrarian age.

``It just makes sense,'' he said of the project.

Marian Fitzgerald, a member of CAPPE, raised questions about the potential
impact on Little River, the county's primary source for drinking water.

While the project may have been planned for years, TDOT had failed to notify
landowners in the path of the proposed road, said William ``Booty'' Miller,
a longtime resident of Blount County and treasurer for The Raven Society, a
local political action committee.

TDOT also failed to note local planning policies, according to Susan Keller,
president of CAPPE. She pointed out the county's 1999 Policies Plan, which
calls for preservation of the area's rural quality.

Sometimes, those who opposed were treated indifferently, said Colleen
Nordstrom, vice president of CAPPE.

``We were told, `Where were you 20 years ago?'''

TDOT's traffic data was challenged by one resident.

Speakers each got four minutes each, and Richards and the rest of his colleagues listened, interrupting only to tell people when they had one minute left to talk.

Richards said the center is not in the position of deciding which projects will be completed, but after collecting information will issue reports with their findings and recommendations to TDOT.

The center's team will collect data through June. He said they would also take letters, e-mails and, if necessary, meet face-to-face with individuals and other groups.

He offered his e-mail address (stever@utk.edu) to audience members who
wanted to send additional comment about the project.

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All materials Copyright 2003 Horvitz Newspapers.