Parkway extension moves forward
2004-09-28
by Darren Dunlap
of The Daily Times Staff

 
Tennessee Department of Transportation officials said Monday the agency is
moving forward with the next phase of development for the Pellissippi
Parkway extension.
 
``That phase involves the preparation of an Environmental Impact Analysis,''
according to TDOT communications officer Kim Keelor.
 
Work on the extension was halted two years ago by a federal judge when the
Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension petitioned for the EIS,
citing its requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act.
 
The proposed route connects Old Knoxville Highway (U.S. 33) to East Lamar
Alexander Parkway (U.S. 321).
 
``This announcement affirms CAPPE's long-standing assertion that federal
regulation requires a comprehensive (EIS) for a new, four-lane, limited
access highway in a new location,'' said Nina Gregg, communications chair
 for CAPPE. ``It is unfortunate that a citizens group had to file a lawsuit
 to compel our state and federal governments to comply with their own
 regulation.
 
 ``We hope FHWA and TDOT will now undertake the comprehensive analysis
 specified in the Code of Federal Regulations and provide the residents and
 local governments of Blount County with data documenting the need and
 anticipated direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of this proposed new
 interstate highway.''
 
 TDOT officials said the federal government took the lead on the EIS.
 
 ``We are in agreement with the Federal Highway Administration that the
 preparation of a full (EIS) is the best course of action for this proposed
 project at this time,'' said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely.
 
 The Parkway extension was one of 15 road projects reviewed last year by the
 University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research. In November,
 Nicely announced at Region 1 TDOT headquarters in Knoxville that the agency
 would proceed with the project when allowed to do so by the federal courts
 and the FHWA.
 
 In July 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit remanded the
 injunction back to the District Court in Nashville, with instructions to
 allow the FHWA to review their compliance under NEPA.
 
 ``At that time, I announced that the department decided that this project
 will be handled as a federally funded project and we will not proceed with
 this project as a state-only funded project, as previously considered,''
 said Nicely.
 
 The EIS will take 18 to 36 months to complete. Work on the EIS will begin
 ``very shortly ... before the end of the year,'' according to Keelor.