Shared cause drives coalition

Club wants to reform road-building process

By HAYES HICKMAN, hickman@knews.com


January 20, 2003

The state chapter of the Sierra Club hopes to attract more than just environmentalists into the ranks of a new effort to create a statewide, unified voice for road-building reform.

With a Saturday, Jan. 25, public meeting planned in Nashville and
more set for Knoxville and Memphis next month, the coalition for reform within
the Tennessee Department of Transportation is offering all citizens a chance to speak up.

"I think the average citizen is upset by what they see as unnecessary
road building," said Mary Mastin, an executive committee member with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club. "There are people who aren't necessarily tied into environmental organizations, but see a waste of tax dollars and see other priorities for the state."


As certain road projects across the state have met with local complaints, various community groups have hinted at the networking idea for years. But the concept solidified once Gov. Phil Bredesen took up the issue of TDOT reform during his campaign.

"We're basically using that momentum," said Jeff Barrie, who was
recently hired as the coalition's coordinator. "If we have an opportunity to
make changes, I think it's important that we have citizens involved in making those changes."

Bredesen's appointment of Gerald Nicely as transportation commissioner was also received as a good sign by the coalition. Nicely, who served as director of Nashville's Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency,
was picked from outside the road-building industry and has echoed
Bredesen's pledge for more pubic input, greater environmental controls and other changes.

Barrie, who previously worked on a campaign to protect the National
Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, said he has enlisted the support of about
20 TDOT opposition groups.

Locally, the list includes Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway
Extension, South Knoxvillians Advocating Reasonable Development and
Citizens Against the Beltway.

Already on the coalition's agenda are the meaningful inclusion of
citizens' concerns, greater spending priority for public transit and passenger
rail projects, and the suspension of the state's most controversial
projects for further review.

Barrie contends that TDOT's road-building priorities have contributed
to urban sprawl and worsened air pollution.

"I don't see that as a positive trend and I think a lot of other
people in Tennessee feel the same way," he said.


Coalition meetings are scheduled for Feb. 8 in Memphis and Feb. 15 in
Knoxville. Times and locations are still pending.


Hayes Hickman may be reached at 865-342-6323.

http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/state/article/0,1406,KNS_348_1685417,00.html

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Hayes Hickman can be reached at 981-9101 or hickman@knews.com.

Copyright 2002, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.