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Jack has done a great job of capturing what this project is about, and what the needs and issues are in relation to the community it serves. He's dead on in his assessment of the numbers and projections - increased capacity is not the critical issue with this bridge.
I've been involved with the whole Henley Bridge project for some time, and have been very concerned that TDOT was just going to go with their plan to widen for more vehicular traffic regardless of the need or community desires. I was at the meeting that Jack references, and I was very pleased and impressed with the way TDOT's Deputy Chief Engineer responded to those concerns. He was open to what the city and community wanted. Hallelujah! The clouds have parted and there's light!
As Jack indicates, TDOT is looking to the City of Knoxville for guidance on how that extra width should be allocated. It's hard to overstate how big a step forward that is for the state. Now, the question is, how will the city respond? I for one am hopeful that the administration will recommend the clear public preference that was heard at that meeting: make the bridge one that's friendly to all users, regardless of whether they're driving, biking or walking. In fact, one has to wonder if they would consider doing anything else. It can and should be done.
I agree with the previous comment by "nrgrater". The biggest challenge for us is the existing building stock, and if we don't address it as a priority, we will only be making marginal improvements. This is especially important for the City of Knoxville, since most of the building stock that will exist within the city limits in the next couple of decades is already here. That is particularly true of single family housing stock. Most of these houses, even those that are not that well built, will be with us for many decades.
Our greatest potential for adding new housing capacity, and also adding non-housing building square footage, will be through redeveloping our commercial arterial corridors into mixed use developments. The buildings that result from such redevelopment should certainly meet higher standards such as LEED or Energy Star, but that's only part of the equation.
Equally important, if not more so, will be how such new development affects our transportation networks. Denser, more people friendly mixed use developments that require less vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will have an even greater impact on energy use and environmental quality.
I've addressed these issues from both perspectives. Long ago I served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Solar Energy Association, and I worked for quite a few years before and after that doing hands-on work in the field of energy efficiency and solar applications. Now, I'm attempting to attack the problem of a somewhat dysfunctional transportation and land use system head on. Both facets are important, and we can't afford to focus on either one to the exclusion of the other.