Study enhances stand against longer road

10-20-2002

By John Stiles, News-Sentinel Blount County bureau

Members of a citizens group found a study enabling them to say: "I told you so."

Last week the Southern Environmental Law Center's Land and Community Project released a study which was exactly what Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension had been saying all along. There's no way to know if the study will affect the outcome, but it is interesting.

The national report ranked Knoxville (area) the eighth most sprawling metropolitan area in the United States, and the single most spread out metro area in the entire country.

CAPPE is fighting a 4-mile-plus extension of the Pellissippi Parkway which runs from Blount to Anderson County via Knoxville. Many of those opposed to the completion of the project live in the largely rural area. The route is from Old Knoxville Highway to U.S. 321.

Proponents say the road is needed to carry heavy traffic to the Townsend/Great Smoky Mountains National Park area.

According to the law center people who live in more sprawling places drive more, face a greater risk of dying in a wreck and breathe more polluted air.

In addition to taking people's homes and in some cases farms, CAPPE says the extension will open up the area to subdivisions and other "sprawl." At present CAPPE has temporarily stopped the project with a lawsuit. A member of CAPPE, Nina Gregg, said she "feels like this study confirms" the sprawl charge. She said it proves more planning needs to be done and a comprehensive land use plan be adopted before highways are built. She argues, and so does the study, that sprawl puts a load on schools and local roads, often roads that were not meant to carry heavy traffic. Gregg says the study includes Blount County because it is in the "metro" area. Knoxville received a score of 68.5 on the overall index.

The full report, as well as a technical research paper and metropolitan area fact sheets can be found at www.smartgrowthamerica. org. The federal government has halted its contribution to the project until the controversy is settled. The parkway is completed for the most part. Another section is under construction. It runs from Cusick Road in Alcoa to Old Knoxville Highway.

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John Stiles can be reached at 981-9101 or Stiles@knews.com.

Copyright 2002, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.