Nina Gregg:† Facts donít support Pellissippi Parkway Extension

Nina Gregg is a member of CAPPEís board of directors

Published Saturday, March 24, 2012

With declining resources for maintaining and improving our national and regional transportation systems, we have to make choices. Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension advocates responsible transportation planning in our community and our region.

We have presented the Tennessee Department of Transportation with proposed solutions to road issues in Blount County ó our members are concerned about many transportation matters, not just the parkway extension.

CAPPE's concerns include unsafe, substandard roads in Blount County; increasing costs to the county from residential development that TDOT studies show will be accelerated by the parkway extension; a cost estimate of $100 million that does not reflect the quadrupling of asphalt prices since 2000; TDOT's own traffic studies showing that the parkway extension will not reduce traffic congestion; and loss of active, productive farmland.

With so many transportation projects competing for Tennessee's limited funds, let's spend our tax dollars on urgent projects clearly supported by objective data, not on a 30-year-old proposal that predates current four-lane access to Townsend and the mountains.

Blount County has other needs, such as dangerous roads, that threaten the safety of residents and tourists. Other communities served by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Organization surely can recommend their own needed projects.

No objective data exist for the assertion that the Pellissippi Parkway Extension will help relieve traffic congestion now or in the future. In fact, TDOT's Draft Environmental Impact Statement states, "Little change is predicted in the level of service of existing roadways between the No-Build and Build Alternatives since the traffic volumes do not change substantially for most roadways among the alternatives."

Proponents and opponents alike know this highway will encourage sprawl in a largely agricultural area that many who live here are working to protect and preserve. The highway also will spoil a landscape that tourists come here to see and experience.

Regardless of the intentions of Maryville and Alcoa to control the appearance of inevitable development where the parkway would intersect U.S. highways 411 and 321, the cities have no control over what happens in the county. TDOT's environmental impact statement is instructive again: "If growth occurs outside the areas targeted for growth, the county could experience increased cost to maintain services."

Moreover, TDOT's Economic and Fiscal Impacts Analysis of the project predicted that the decades-long trend of development in Blount County outside the urban growth boundaries (the definition of sprawl) will continue. Development in areas without adequate infrastructure permanently destroys the rural and natural character of the county and is costly for the county and its residents.

CAPPE's analysis of the environmental impact statement can be found at CAPPE Summary Analysis. Tell your elected representatives that the Pellissippi Parkway Extension is an irresponsible use of our limited transportation funds and should not be built.