Nicely says Pellissippi extension now federal project - CAPPE calls
again for environmental impact statement


by Darren Dunlap
of The Daily Times Staff

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely said
Thursday the Pellissippi Parkway extension will be handled as a federally funded project.

``We will not proceed with this project as a state only funded project, as previously considered,'' said Nicely.

His response comes after a U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals decision Wednesday to
remand the case, which involves the final section of the Pellissippi Parkway
extension, back to a U.S. District Court in Nashville.

After Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension (CAPPE) filed a
lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S.
District Court Judge Todd Campbell issued an injunction in 2002 on all planning
associated with the 4.5 mile, four-lane project. The proposed route connects Old Knoxville Highway (U.S. 33) to East Lamar Alexander Parkway (U.S. 321).

CAPPE called for a more detailed analysis, an environmental impact
statement, and pointed to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
guidelines requiring it. In response to the injunction, the FHWA
withdrew its analysis, a Finding Of No Significant Impact, and sought ``voluntary
remand,'' according to the federal appeals court.

The appeals court Wednesday found ``the district court erred in denying the
FHWA an opportunity to revisit its decision, we reverse the judgment of
the district court with instructions to vacate or modify the injunction so
as to allow the FHWA to comply with NEPA.''

Nicely said TDOT will cooperate with local officials and citizens.

``The department will seek to actively cooperate with the FHWA and
other parties to initiate and conduct the environmental analysis needed to
move this project forward,'' said Nicely. ``Local officials and citizens will be
fully involved in this analysis.''

Nina Gregg, CAPPE communications chair, said the EIS would give local govern-
ments the information needed so that ``decisions are grounded in data.''

``This is an opportunity for TDOT, Commissioner Nicely, to say to the
Federal Highway Administration, we want to do the EIS,'' she said.
``This is what CAPPE has asked for, and this is what the Blount County Commission has asked for.''