Extension traffic projections include 'Southern Loop'
By Rick Laney
of The Daily Times Staff
February 20, 2008
More than 500 people packed the auditorium at Heritage High School Tuesday evening for a public meeting on the proposed extension of the Pellissippi Parkway.
The Blount Partnership, which favors the extension, promoted the meeting and
passed out stickers supporting the project as people entered the school.
Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension (CAPPE), a group that has
voiced concern about the project, was also well-represented at the meeting.
The project, according to earlier estimates from the Knoxville Regional
Transportation Planning Organization, would cost about $37.4 million.
Maps and charts showing area roadways and traffic flow were on display outside
the auditorium. Some attendees said they learned for the first time that all of
the projected traffic improvements from the project are based on both the
Pellissippi Parkway Extension and the completion of a different project called
the "Southern Loop."
The Southern Loop is, according to TDOT officials, a 26-mile loop through Blount County that is part of a "long-range regional transportation plan." The
Southern Loop travels around Maryville and would, according to TDOT, improve
circulation around the city.
Ingrid Haun, a Louisville resident, asked TDOT and local officials why the
projected traffic congestion on the maps showed no significant variation
between the maps with the parkway extension and the maps showing no parkway
Becky White, a consultant working for TDOT, said, "There are differences
in congestion between building the extension and not building the extension,
but the build model does not entirely satisfy every traffic demand within the
Two possible routes -- a "Route A" and a "Route B" -- are
under review as the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) considers
extending Pellissippi Parkway from where it currently ends at Old Knoxville
Highway to East Lamar Alexander Parkway east of Maryville.
Under "Route A," Pellissippi Parkway would extend from Old Knoxville
Highway parallel to Jackson Hills Drive across Sevierville Road and Davis Ford
Road to connect with East Lamar Alexander Highway about one mile west of Helton
The proposed "Route B" would take Pellissippi Parkway from Old Knoxville Highway across Mount Lebanon and Sam Houston School roads toward the Sam
Houston School Historic Site and then turn sharply south toward the Mack Hitch
Farm before connecting with East Lamar Alexander Highway near Heritage High School.
Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham told those in attendance, "Common
sense would dictate that 'Route A' is the preferred route because fewer homes
are disturbed, there is less environmental impact and the need for less
Dating to 1977
In 1977, local officials submitted the first request to the state for an
extension to the Pellissippi Parkway. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the project
was discussed, studied and analyzed. After completing the planning stage of the
project, TDOT is now working on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
According to TDOT officials at the meeting, the planning and Environmental
Impact Statement stages are followed by the design stage, right-of-way
acquisition and, finally, the construction stage. The whole process is
estimated to take eight to 12 years.
Options that TDOT says it is considering include not building the extension at
all, public transit, transportation system management (small improvement
projects), improving the roadways in northeast Blount County and building the
Maryville Mayor Joe Swann, when asked why officials are publicly supporting the
project before the environmental analysis is complete, said, "If people
aren't proactive with projects they believe in, you'll never get roads built. I
don't know where we would be if we hadn't built the roads we have thus
Cunningham said, "Roads do not create growth -- roads are a response to
growth. Blount County has been growing for 233 years -- it's been growing at a
rate of 2 percent per year for the past 100 years."
Following a brief overview by TDOT officials and local mayors including
Cunningham, Maryville Mayor Joe Swann, Alcoa Mayor Don Mull and Alcoa City
Manager Mark Johnson, the meeting was opened to public questions until 7 p.m.
About 20 questions, submitted or asked by audience members, were addressed.
After the meeting, most attendees expressed surprise and pleasure at the
larger-than-expected turnout. Some residents felt many questions remained
"I think many of the decision makers have already made up their
minds," Haun said. "They may be going through the motions instead of
actually engaging the public."
Nina Gregg, a board member for CAPPE, said she was pleased with the turnout but
felt frustrated by the question period.
"It's frustrating that there was a sincere attempt at public participation
(by attendees)," Gregg said. "People came out in good faith and
didn't get answers to their questions.
As the process continues, I'm sure we'll have additional opportunities to
participate -- but that could be after some decisions are already made."
Residents who did not attend the meeting can still submit comments and feedback
to TDOT until March 11 via e-mail at
or by mail to: Project Comments, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Suite 700 - James K. Polk Building, 505 Deaderick Street, Nashville, TN 37243-0332.