Wed
Aug 28 2013
10:46 am

WATE: TPO votes to remove James White Parkway extension:

The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization voted Wednesday to stop all plans for the James White Parkway extension.

UPDATE: Statement from Mayor Rogero's Office:

Ralph Comer, TDOT's assistant chief of environment and planning, came to the public meeting of the Transportation Planning Organization's Executive Board this morning, and indicated that if TPO removed the JWP extension from its four-year Transportation Improvement Program, TDOT would respect that and call the entire process to a halt. That means no more comment period, no meetings in October, etc. They would just drop the project. Mayor Rogero made the motion to remove the JWP from the TIP, and the motion passed unanimously.

TPO still has to formally adopt the TIP without the JWP. That is expected to happen at next month's meeting. (The TIP is open for public comment until then.)

Note: Here's the draft TPO 2014-2017 TIP...

UPDATE: TDOT Commissioner releases statement:

Today's action by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) effectively stops work on the James White Parkway Extension Project. Until today, TDOT continued work on the project because it was included in the Knoxville TPO's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The project was developed in part to address safety and congestion issues along Chapman Highway. We remain concerned that our efforts to improve conditions along Chapman Highway will not be sufficient now, and particularly in the future.

TDOT will not build projects that aren't supported by communities and our local partners. Today, we received a clear statement by the current members of the Knoxville TPO that they do not wish to see the project progress. We will no longer commit any further resources to this project.

Now it's official.

UPDATE: Mayor Rogero released the following statement:

I would like to thank Commissioner Schroer for listening to regional representatives at the Transportation Planning Organization and ending TDOT's consideration of an extension to the James White Parkway. This action protects the Urban Wilderness and allows us to capitalize on this incredible regional economic and tourism opportunity as an outdoor recreation destination. I look forward to continuing to work with TDOT to address safety and traffic issues along Chapman Highway and our other vital transportation corridors.

55
like
metulj's picture

Vigilance is still needed.

Vigilance is still needed. TDOT's game is generational in its outlook. This will be back on the table in 10-15 years if there isn't further consolidation of resources in South Knoxville. Any naysayers out there about the Urban Wilderness and the outdoors stuff there just need to pop into a bike shop in the NorthEast and tell them that you are from there. The "Dirty South" trails are becoming a big tourist attraction.

R. Neal's picture

There's also a question in my

There's also a question in my mind whether this is binding on TDOT or whether TPO is advisory in nature. I thought they had already voted to drop it from the priority list.

Average Guy's picture

A win civically for

A win civically for Knoxvillians, especially those in South Knoxville.

And IMO, a big win for Rogero as well.

Let's just hope Chapman doesn't recieve the penalty. We've been told those improvements are on the books. Get er' done.

And hopefully, now that TDOT has the time, they can take up the Moody improvement idea.

Michael's picture

Another take...

...from The Daily Pulse.
~m.

R. Neal's picture

Looking at some TPO mandates,

Looking at some TPO mandates, it appears that any project has to be planned and prioritized by TPO before any federal funds can be released for it.

So, this sounds pretty definite and final, for now.

Mike Cohen's picture

TPO

Brilliantly handled by Mayor Rogero.

R. Neal's picture

Madeline for Governor!

Madeline for Governor!

WhitesCreek's picture

Retargetting...

Does this mean the Pellissippi Parkway extension will now get double the effort from TDOT and the forces of evil?

R. Neal's picture

Good question. It could also

Good question. It could also free up money for the Alcoa Highway bypass.

yellowdog's picture

It's still about money.

If TDOT were to spend now what it will cost to upgrade Chapman Highway, that will cost some big bucks. So will the already-planned upgrade of Alcoa Highway.

The Alcoa Highway Bypass is another project entirely and it will cost as much or more as the PPE or the JWP or the Alcoa Highway upgrades.

Hardly anyone is opposed to upgrading Chapman Highway and the Alcoa Highway and both projects fit into TDOT's avowed top two priorities (Fix it First and safety).

The Alcoa Highway Bypass and the PPE are both new roads and thus do not fit into the Fix it First criterion The PPE, according to TDOT's own studies, will have very little, if any, positive effects on safety. I have not read whatever studies there are on the Alcoa Bypass but cannot imagine it is a safety-related project.

Wise use of scarce resources would lead to the Alcoa Highway and Chapman Highway upgrades before any money is spent on new roads that are merely "convenience roads" for shoppers (the Alcoa Bypass) and for commuters (PPE).

ma am's picture

TDOT can't afford it

They have nine times as much project costs as they have money to build. See the Smart Growth America report (link...)

R. Neal's picture

From the January TPO meeting

From the January TPO meeting minutes:

additionally it was recommended by the Technical Committee to remove the James White Parkway project from the list [TDOT requested priority list] (Map ID B8) and to add a new project, Operations and Safety Improvements to Chapman Highway between Blount Ave. and Governor John Sevier Highway, to Projects Under Consideration for FY 2015/FY 2016. He clarified removal of the James White Parkway project was only reflective of this 3 year list. Mayor Rogero stated she supported removal of the James White Parkway project and was extremely supportive of the proposed improvements to Chapman Highway as they are critical.

Action: A Motion was made by Brenda Palmer (City of Knoxville) and seconded by Mayor Mull to approve submitting the list, as presented, to the Tennessee Department of Transportation for their consideration. The Motion carried unanimously.

R. Neal's picture

Wonder if Ralph Comer was

Wonder if Ralph Comer was ready to retire. Sounds like he's been at TDOT for a long time. Either way, we wish him well.

cwg's picture

TDOT responds

Statement from TDOT Commissioner John Schroer:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Today’s action by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) effectively stops work on the James White Parkway Extension Project. Until today, TDOT continued work on the project because it was included in the Knoxville TPO’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The project was developed in part to address safety and congestion issues along Chapman Highway. We remain concerned that our efforts to improve conditions along Chapman Highway will not be sufficient now, and particularly in the future.

TDOT will not build projects that aren’t supported by communities and our local partners. Today, we received a clear statement by the current members of the Knoxville TPO that they do not wish to see the project progress. We will no longer commit any further resources to this project.

ArtWagner's picture

Anecdotal experience

I am beyond delighted that they have dropped the project from the priority list. However, there is a lesson to be learned, as if we didn't already know it, that state entities cannot be trusted, necessarily, to tell the truth. Schroer continued his claim that congestion on Chapman Highway, now and in the future, was one of the primary drivers of the project. Unfortunately, their own data does not support this. And, anecdotal evidence does not support it either.

A few minutes ago, I found myself at the corner of Lindy and Chapman, preparing to pull out onto the highway. There was no traffic coming in either direction, so I decided to time (for my own gratification) how long the lapse in traffic was. It was 53 seconds before another auto came along, another 11 seconds before a truck came from the opposite direction. Congestion? Not my definition of it. Your results may vary--apparently TDOT's results and experience varies considerably from mine. Probably yours, too.

R. Neal's picture

Not very gracious in defeat.

Not very gracious in defeat.

rocketsquirrel's picture

clever wording. "current

clever wording. "current members." They'll be back. They always come back.

R. Neal's picture

See updates for statement

See updates for statement from Mayor Rogero...

Mike Cohen's picture

The death of JWP

Worth noting (and knowing I will get jumped for this) that in the final analysis, the system worked. The body of local officials charged with prioritizing road projects said it didn't want it and that killed it virtually immediately.

R. Neal's picture

What do you do in a community

What do you do in a community where residents don't want a project but officials do for reasons they can't or won't explain? That's when the system breaks down.

jbr's picture

Unfortunately, for every

Unfortunately, for every Mayor Rogero, and others involved, there seem to be at least 50 mayors of a type that cause the system to not work in the spirit in which it was intended.

And that has a negative snowball affect on voter and community participation, and overall morale.

At this point it looks like South Knox is a sort of "everybodys chipping in" sort of thing.

I don't see that happening without a local administration with characteristics similar to what we have at this time.

R. Neal's picture

Knoxville is very fortunate

Knoxville is very fortunate to have the leadership it has right now. And South Knoxville has always had a strong sense of community, probably by virtue of being somewhat geographically isolated by the river. But, I'm probably biased.

rikki's picture

immediate as constipation

This is probably the most absurd thing you've posted here, Mike. This project has been alive for decades, and it has taken years of work by numerous public and private organizations to finally get through TDOT's thick hide. TPO voiced its disinterest in this project months ago and did nothing yesterday but reiterate its position.

It's obvious the Wood's donation of 100 acres made this project unfeasible, even in the eyes of TDOT. TDOT deserves no credit at all. They had to be virtually bought out of options, not just by the Wood family, but by the hundreds of people who have worked to create the parks, trails and facilities of the urban wilderness, an effort that has been underway since Marie Myers Park was dedicated by the Ashe administration, if not longer.

cwg's picture

More Details On the James

More Details On the James White Parkway Extension's Collapse*

Sevier County is not happy.

(link...)

Mike Cohen's picture

The system

The system has plenty of problems, although for the most part the state-mandated MPOs have been pretty good.

Everyone is praising South Knox, but remember that people from Sevier and other places have votes as well. But killing JWP was unanimous. Here's the exec board: (link...)

So in this case, the system did work.

As for when the elected officials don't agree with the electorate the remedy is at the ballot box.

Lots of system problems, I agree....but in this case the system worked, which is good to know.

cwg's picture

Sevier County did not vote on

Sevier County did not vote on the project. They weren't there today. See my blog post linked above.

Mike Cohen's picture

Sevier

I stand corrected.

I assume they knew it would come up and preferred not be there and get beat, although that is speculation.

They are certainly a part of the TPO.

cwg's picture

I guess you still didn't

I guess you still didn't click through. Sevier County did not know. No one knew. It wasn't on the official agenda.

R. Neal's picture

Sevier County did not know.

Sevier County did not know. No one knew. It wasn't on the official agenda.

The TPO meeting was on public notice and open to the public. The agenda was published and made public. Item 5 on the agenda is discussion of the Draft 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program. Anyone could have proposed anything, and anyone who was interested could have been there to challenge it or debate it and vote for it or against it.

Not sure how this might affect the public comment period for the TIP, though, which opened Aug. 25th before the change.

cwg's picture

What I meant is that

What I meant is that discussion of removing the JWP was not on the agenda. Clearly. And yes, anyone could have proposed anything, and did, but this type of stuff generally is passed with zero discussion, so you can't blame the guy for missing the meeting and then being upset.

Bbeanster's picture

The rumor always was that

The rumor always was that Sevier County interests were driving this project.

And it's not just a matter of routing traffic.

Blalock Construction is a very important roadbuilder.

(link...)

AnonymousOne's picture

They oughta busy enough

They oughta busy enough expanding Dollywood and those roads in the next decade.

R. Neal's picture

Campfield told the KNS that

Campfield told the KNS that the "Green Gestapo wants to stop any road" and that "the City of Knoxville doesn't want the jobs or the safety." Nice.

KevinMurphy's picture

New Roads benefit road builders and land developers

Betty correctly pointed out that there are big road builders that benefit from building new road projects. Interestingly enough, they also benefit from fixing and improving existing roads too, but I suspect (no expertise here) that it's more difficult and less profitable because they have to keep existing traffic flowing.

The other beneficiary of new road projects, who have been REALLY quiet about this project, are developers. The Orange Route was pushed by a number of speculators who were hoping to make money developing new interchanges with commercial enterprises, and then driving subdivision growth nearby.

It's interesting that JWP currently doesn't have commercial development at the intersections; that's probably due to low traffic count. The extension and increased traffic volume would have changed the numbers, and I think you would have seen the developers swoop in.

Mike Cohen's picture

Developers

Damn near every one of us lives, works and shops in places built by developers.

Let's not act like they are inherently evil. Like any group, there are good and bad ones.

This just relates back to my earlier post about demonizing people on the other side. One of my all time favorite quotes if from Alex Haley: "Find the good and praise it."

And yes, I realize I fall far short in this area, too. Just making an effort to be better about it. I have a long way to go.

metulj's picture

Developers are

Developers are self-interested? Sure, but forcing a project just "because" (and money) will always violate the rights of others.

reform4's picture

Yes, and...

When I go to West Town, I get to drive by a partially deserted Downtown West.

If I go to East Town, I get to walk though a half-deserted mall.

If I go to Turkey Creek, I can drive by other empty, deserted retail spaces on my way there from many directions.

There has been some re-use of these spaces as offices, but the Girl Scouts don't need 500 parking spaces.

Meanwhile these good-seekers want to pave more land in SoKnox, Watt Road, etc

With the continuing growth of online shopping, I foresee a coming glut of retail space, without building any more.

Mike Cohen's picture

Developers

I am not supporting bad development, nor am I saying there are not bad developers. But there are plenty of good ones, too. That's my only point.

Hopefully the places that get deserted can be redeveloped. I was proud of my small part in turning an abandoned Walgreens into a really nice public library in East Knoxville, although I admit the community there is still divided on the location. But we got rid of some blight and built a bigger, better facility.

And when places get abandoned for newer ones in better locations...that's not really the developers. Generally, they are only building what and where the retailers want to go. And they want to go where more people have easier access to reach them and spend money. And wheel spins on.

Somebody's picture

No, not all developers are

No, not all developers are evil.

It is true, however, that a lot of retail space is considered disposable by the builders and their tenants. Kroger's and WalMart are of particular note in this area. Even as they build their latest and greatest stores, there's a calculation made for how long they intend to use the space, with a clear intent to use it and leave it within a defined period of time. They also don't intend for competitors to buy it, rehabilitate it and use it when they move out. As a result, the buildings sit unused or leased to second or third-tier tenants who won't attract much business or competition.

It seems nobody in government has yet figured out how to close that loop of accountability, or even anticipate the inevitability of the process. As a result, you have communities like Oak Ridge bending over backward to facilitate their new Kroger's Marketplace development, even as the trail of several less-than-optimally used former Kroger's locations document exactly what they intend to do with the new location in about 20 years. Those developers are just doing what they do. Is that evil?

Bbeanster's picture

I was proud of my small part

I was proud of my small part in turning an abandoned Walgreens into a really nice public library in East Knoxville, although I admit the community there is still divided on the location. But we got rid of some blight and built a bigger, better facility.

Memory is a funny thing. What I recall is the owner of the blighted property in the old Holston Shopping Center was a Friend Of Ragsdale's who really wanted to unload it.

So the county took it off his hands as the first of a series of property swap/sales that subsequently involved shutting down the health department branch on Asheville Highway and selling it off to "put it back on the property tax rolls."

The result was a clear win/win for the FOR. East Knoxville ended up with a very nice branch library that's not within walking distance of anybody's neighborhood. And since a church bought the former Health Department building (for a fraction of the price Ragsdale predicted it would fetch), it never went back on the tax rolls, and East Knoxville also ended up with the infamous Hardy Clinic fiasco that became part of the Cynthia Finch scandal.

Inaccessible library and unusable clinic – not exactly a bonanza to the community.

metulj's picture

(No subject)

Mike Cohen's picture

East Knox library

Not exactly, Betty. We were shopping for a building because we wanted to revamp a building rather than build from scratch if possible.

The best building we found was the old Walgreens. It was owned by someone who was a friend of Mike's but we did the deal anyway.

I was the one who first pushed the refit idea and I can guarantee you it was not driven by any developer or building owner. In fact, the library pushed back at first and wanted to build from scratch.

As for use, I don't know for sure. It was historically the least used library in the county and I am sure the numbers are probably still pretty low.

DavidAllanHoward's picture

Irony

Too funny!

Mike Cohen playing all knight-in-shining-armor and Betty smacking him with reality!

LOVE IT!

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