Letter: Stick to the Plan

I attended and spoke at the Dec. 6 public hearing held by TDOT regarding their plan to solve the traffic problems plaguing Chapman Highway through construction of the James White Parkway. ["Road to Ruin?" Citybeat by Cari Wade Gervin, Dec. 13, 2012] Comments made at the hearing by Mayor Rogero, Vice Mayor Pavlis, and other speakers who oppose the parkway have compelled me to present this question to the City Council: Where is your plan to fix Chapman Highway?

There were numerous reasons offered for halting construction of the parkway, ranging from a so-called "rebranding" of South Knoxville as an "Urban Wilderness" to a let-them-eat-cake approach, which was a little less clearly defined but the gist of that position was: Let them go around South Knoxville or let them suffer because we really do not appreciate the burden of their through-traffic.

There was a litany of speakers who expressed their desire to see Chapman Highway "fixed" while opposing any impact on businesses or homes.

The majority of the comments offered by the opposition demonstrated that few, if any, had even bothered to review the Draft Environmental Impact Study, which was being discussed at the hearing.

The Draft EIS executive summary, which is laid out on the first 14 pages of this document, succinctly lays out the possible impacts of building the parkway and the probable impacts of not building it.

As most of us know, if we build it, we must sacrifice homes, businesses, and undeveloped tracts along the project path to connect high-growth areas along the Knox/Sevier County line with downtown and our interstate system. This is clearly a priority for a majority of the traffic on Chapman Highway since the data collected for this project and presented at the meeting revealed that two-thirds of the northbound Chapman Highway traffic continued on to the interstate.

If we do not build the parkway, we continue to burden a growing population in our area with gridlock and unacceptably dangerous road conditions.

The Draft EIS even touched on some of the more mercurial offerings made at the hearing, like mass transit, but, as this document points out, none of these offerings are considered "reasonable alternatives."

There was also discussion about the economic impact of the project on Chapman Highway with one speaker going so far as to take a virtual walk down memory lane listing the numerous businesses that have come and gone over the last several decades. Interestingly, this speaker opposed the parkway because he felt businesses in that area needed the traffic while wholly ignoring the fact that businesses were struggling and failing along the corridor long before the closure of the Henley Bridge.

Some of the speakers objected to diverting through-traffic to the parkway only to "dump" that traffic back onto Chapman at John Sevier Highway. TDOT representatives indicated that improvements were already being implemented along that corridor south of the planned route, but this seemed to fall on deaf ears.

There was even an individual who identified himself as a math professor at UT—certainly not mathematically-challenged—who made much ado about previous TDOT traffic projections that proved to be inaccurate. This individual totally ignored the actual unacceptably high number of vehicles that are currently, not projected, traveling this deadly section of Chapman Highway.

Additionally, I pointed out during my speech that those same flawed TDOT projections from the '60s and even the '80s wholly failed to forecast the westward population explosion that has consumed so much of the real estate between the City of Knoxville and the western boundaries of Knox County. That's the problem with projections—they really are just "best guesses."

Vice-Mayor Pavlis gave a rousing speech to the faithful, even pointing out that we can put a man on the moon so we should be able to fix Chapman Highway. This was a great style-without-substance soundbite but there was no plan offered to solve the deadly problem our citizens face daily along Chapman Highway.

Mayor Rogero, who I voted for during the election, voiced her opposition to the extension without the euphoric man-on-the-moon rhetoric but, again, NO PLAN, NO SOLUTION.

I am appalled at the irresponsible positions advocated by our city mayor and vice-mayor.

Furthermore, I fail to see how this administration can support the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project, with its stated goal "To chart the course for a more attractive economically successful, vibrant and safe Cumberland Avenue," while encouraging a head-in-the-sand approach to Chapman Highway.

South Knoxville needs a safe corridor and we have been promised one for 40 years. The reasoning for the parkway has changed somewhat but the necessity is greater now than it has ever been before.

So, again I ask, "Where is your plan for Chapman Highway?"

David Howard