The City of Alcoa and a Chattanooga developer are in a bind since TDOT has elected to review all projects statewide.
In October, 2012, "Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson does not think there will be a problem with the planned Alcoa Parkway."
Schroer is “sharp as a tack,” Johnson said. “He is a former mayor of Franklin and former developer. He knows what roads are needed. There has been more movement with the new administration than the whole eight years with (former Gov. Phil) Bredesen.”
Yesterday it was reported, "TDOT Commissioner John Schroer decided to review all projects statewide." The City of Alcoa has now hired an engineering firm to "look at the current Hunt Road/Alcoa Highway interchange and see what can be done with the existing bridge to make it more functional."
ALCOA, Inc. sold a large plot of land to a private developer for retail/residential development. An existing four-lane road connects to the proposed project. For some reason, no one can figure out how to get people in/out of the development. You know, sort of like Turkey Creek. You access Parkside Drive from Lovell Road or Campbell Station Road (and that's all). For this new development, you can access Hunt Road from Alcoa Highway and Lamar Alexander Parkway (or many roads in between).
Let's hope they review this project (Alcoa Highway Parkway/Bypass) out of existence.
Why isn't someone planning for the future as growth continues along Alcoa Highway?
The June 21, 2012, Daily Times Op-Ed says, "Light rail to Knox is too logical to be seriously considered."
After discussions with Gary Wynn, a local light rail enthusiast, the Daily Times editorial board thinks using existing railroad lines for light rail to/from Knoxville instead of more, bigger, faster roads is a good idea.
- Northfolk-Southern branch line a good candidate
- Less expensive means of transportation
- A self-supporting transportation authority
We think Wynn’s is a good idea. Once railroad beds are lost, they are never likely to be recovered for that use. We realize that such a simple, practical solution is not likely to be adequately considered. Too many think everything new has to be high tech and high priced until we begin paying for it. Enough money is being spent on development of the old West Plant area to warrant due consideration of light rail for passenger traffic.
Twenty-five or so residents of the Springbrook area and Alcoa citizens who felt they would be affected by the Alcoa Road access to the Springbrook community from the new shopping center on Hall Road attended the City of Alcoa Commission meeting Tuesday, April 10, 2012, to express their comments verbally regarding this turn of events.
Eight or more people spoke to the Commission explaining their concerns that this access will bring increased traffic, reduce safety, and take away from the integrity of the community. The applause after some of the speakers indicated the majority in attendance were in agreement that Alcoa Road should not be used as an access point to the Springbrook community.
Deadline: Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The City of Alcoa Dept. of Public Works & Engineering held a meeting Thursday, March 15, 2012, for residents to review alternate plans for access from the proposed shopping development on Hall Road. Three plans were displayed, Alt A, Alt B, and Alt C. The City of Alcoa mailed post cards to residents of Springbrook announcing this meeting. In addition, they placed an ad in The Daily Times, which appeared in the Sports section on Sunday, March 11, 2012.
The City of Alcoa handed out forms for the approx. 72 residents able to attend the meeting to fill out indicating which alternate route (A, B, or C) the resident would prefer and had a place for comments.
The City of Alcoa has not informed the approx. 250+ residents who were unable to attend the meeting that they can obtain a form to indicate their preference (or no build) and give comments.
Also, this development doesn't just affect Springbrook residents. It affects all residents that visit the area, specifically the park, and residents in neighboring areas such as the Hall Community.
Please take the time to contact Kenny Wiggins, 865-380-4800, at the Public Works and Engineering Dept. to obtain your form and give some input.
More to follow...
The Maryville Daily Times reports on February 4, 2012:
Rockford is opposed to the current project plan and is disappointed that there were no public hearings held after the release of the nose abatement study in July 2011, he wrote to Russell.
“We expect to be kept fully informed regarding further developments with this project,” [Rockford Mayor] Koella concluded.
The Maryville Daily Times reported on Jan. 21, 2012 the headline, "Environmental document completed for Alcoa Highway bypass."
This seems more like a press release than news. The TDOT FONSI report came out in August, 2011.
In a New York Times article it is written that Madrid (Spain) has hidden a six mile stretch of freeway and transformed "a formerly neglected area in the middle of Spain’s capital."
countless tons of granite installed to make paths and fountains; some 8,000 pine trees planted. A new, elegantly simple boathouse has been designed, and a 19th-century complex of brick and glass buildings, including a derelict slaughterhouse and greenhouse, are now being renovated to house art studios and a dance theater.
“When the highway was here, I sat on my sofa and watched television all day,” she [73 year old Pilar López] told me. “Now I feel healthy again because I walk with my friends in the park for hours.”
- In San Francisco, the Embarcadero Freeway was taken down, which reconnected the city with its now glorious waterfront.
- In Seoul, the removal of a stretch of highway along the now-revived Gaecheon stream has made room for a five-mile-long recreation area called Cheonggyecheon.
- In Milwaukee, the destruction of the Park East freeway spur has liberated acres of downtown for parks and neighborhood development.
- In Boston, the nearly-30-year, bank-busting Big Dig fiasco made Boston a better place by tunneling a downtown highway
- In New York, city and state officials are inching closer to tearing down the Sheridan Expressway, a mile-and-a-quarter-long gash in the South Bronx connecting the Bruckner and Cross Bronx Expressways, perhaps to replace it with homes, commercial spaces, playgrounds, swimming pools and soccer fields arrayed along the Bronx River.
The City of Alcoa was built with the future in mind. Let's not take a step back by building a five mile gash through the area. Let's continue to progress and look at alternatives, of which there are many.
"The TDOT Projects Tours is about traveling across Tennessee with state and local officials and seeing our highway and bridge projects that are helping to add to our great transportation system. We will be meeting with our employees and the public will have an opportunity to sit down with us and tell us what they think. I hope you will join us along the way!"
John Schroer, Commissioner
Tennessee Department of Transportation
Blount County Stop at Maryville Municipal Center.
Sept. 29, 2011, 9:15AM EST.
400 West Broadway Avenue
Maryville, TN 37801
They will be visiting Alcoa Hwy (SR115/US 129) Pellissippi Parkway, West of Cusick Rd to South of Little River.
Knox County Open House Meeting at Farragut Town Hall.
Sept. 29, 2011, 5:30PM EST.
11408 Municipal Center Dr.
Farragut, TN 37934
Refer to the Region 1 PDF file link on the TDOT tours page for details of the tour, including the stops and times.
We were able to get a guest editorial published in the Sept. 3, 2011 Knoxville News Sentinel.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, FHWA should reject the EA and require a full Environmental Impact Statement. It should include for public comment both the original improvement proposal and the bypass proposal, and the FHWA should give equal consideration to the concerns of all stakeholders, including residents of the affected communities.
Given the economic climate and taxpayer concerns about government spending, local government and state transportation officials would be wise to take a step back and reassess. There is a less expensive alternative with far less community and environmental impact. Finally, the FHWA should be held accountable for enforcing NEPA regulations.
Included in the FONSI report are updated Noise Study Results (see Page 29, FONSI-26).
Bottom line: Northwood (West Hunt Road) is the only area that will qualify for noise barriers.
Please, review this information. Once you have read it you will surely want to contact everyone you can to let them know this new bypass should not be built. This is just one reason of many.
There are 9 noise analysis areas: 1) Northwood (West Hunt Raod), 2) Springbrook (East Hunt Road), 3) Payne Avenue residences, 4) Cusick Road and Payne Avenue hotels, 5) Belfour Circle residences, 6) The Days Inn on Alcoa Highway, 7) Cedar Hill neighborhood, nearby mobile homes and apartments, from Cardin Lane to Concord Lane/Tammy Circle 8) Glenmore Estates from Glenmore Drive to Caldwell Lane, and 9) Mimosa Heights area.
If no bypass is built, the study predicts that in 24 years (2035), 10,000-12,000 more cars will travel on the existing Alcoa Highway. They say this could increase the traffic noise by 1 decibel (db).
If the bypass is built, the study predicts that the noise analysis areas will be affected as shown in the following table.
The hotels will not be affected (areas 4 and 6).
They say that the Springbrook neighborhood and park (area 2) would only be affected by an increase of 1 db, at the most. The new road will be positioned right between Springbrook and the existing highway. So much closer but so little affect. Hmmmm. They then have the nerve to say that some of the Springbrook residences will have reduced noise, by up to 8db, because "the new northbound ramp from the SR-115 Bypass to existing SR-115 will be elevated on a fill and will provide significant new shielding from traffic on the SR-115 Bypass and existing SR-115." Wonderful! A huge, elevated interstate ramp close to the neighborhood protects from sound and makes the residents feel so much better. I'm shocked at this analysis. One of Alcoa's most historic and beautiful neighborhoods, including the park, and nobody cares. In addition, the sound levels could reach 66 db, which is a level that could warrant consideration for noise abatement. But, no consideration is given.
Belfour Circle (area 5) and Glenmore Estates residences (area 8) are predicted to have an increase of 2-3 db. But, hey, the sound will be below the 66 db required for noise abatement, 60 to 65 db for Belfour Circle and 55 to 63 db predicted for Glenmore Estates.
Areas 1 (Northwood), 3 (Payne Ave. residences), 7 (Cedar Hill area), and 9 (Mimosa Heights) could have sound increases from 5-7 db. Northwood is predicted to have sound levels from 57-73 db, Payne Ave from 61-65 db, Cedar Hill from 54-67 db, and Mimosa Heights from 56-64. 5-7 db is quite an increase in sound. However, notice that since Payne Avenue and Mimosa Heights do not meet the 66 db criteria, no noise abatement is recommended.
The Cedar Hill area residences will be highly affected by road noise. However, the study states that "a noise barrier for Noise Analysis Area 7 is not feasible because a minimum 5 dB noise reduction cannot be achieved at the impacted residence." Does this mean the road will be so close there is nothing they can do to alleviate the noise?
Northwood is the only winner in this report. But, they too are not winners. There are no guarantees. "A noise barrier for Noise Analysis Area 1 [Northwood] is feasible and reasonable and is "likely" to be constructed as part of the project based on the analysis completed using the conceptual projects plans."
There are so many reasons this road should not be built. The increased noise affecting established neighborhoods is just one.
TDOT determined there is a "Finding of No Significant Impact" for the Alcoa Bypass project. Truly amazing.
We can still work with the various stakeholders to try and change this project to be a better fit for the community. For example, fix the existing Alcoa Highway, integrate with other parallel roads (that also need fixes), e.g. Maryville Pike and Sevierville Road.
Then, hopefully, it will be hard to get funding for this project until we can get it changed.
For all of you out there concerned with noise, please note that TDOT takes no responsibility.
With regards to a highway project in Nashville's Salemtown,
The $7.5 million construction project that is widening the Rosa Parks Boulevard bridge over I-65] has stripped away rows of trees that residents say once served as a buffer between the gentrifying neighborhood and the interstate. That will leave only a chain-link fence between the homes and the traffic on I-65.
[TDOT's BJ Doughty] recommends Salemtown residents begin initial noise wall discussions with their council member. Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, who represents the area, says she plans to work with neighbors on ideas for noise reduction.
Don't even think that noise abatement will be a real consideration for this project anymore than any other project.
The draft version of the TDOT public hearing meeting transcript includes all citizen input in regard to the option to build a new Alcoa Bypass parallel to the existing Alcoa Highway. After reviewing the documents and analyzing the comments, with some help from a reader, here are some results.
Does it appear there is a coordinated effort by City of Alcoa and local business to push this project?
Ten employees from one local company that is a local producer of construction aggregates submitted comments to TDOT regarding this project.
Does it appear that many of the people supporting this project stand to benefit from the project?
There were 112 attendees at the Nov. 9, 2010 public hearing
- twenty-three were TDOT employees or sub-contractors
- fourteen were local government employees; ten from the City of Alcoa
- fourteen represented various businesses, e.g. Alcoa, Inc., car dealerships, Clayton Bank, Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Board Blount Partnership, as well as The Daily Times and WVLT
- The remaining sixty-one were citizens where any affiliation was unidentifiable
Of the attendees, twenty-five people spoke and had questions for TDOT. Analysis of the input indicated:
- eight of the speakers were opposed to a new bypass (two were from the same business)
- six spoke in favor of the bypass (four of which were business or government)
- eleven made comments without speaking for or against the bypass
In all, TDOT received input from eighty-one individuals; some spoke at the public hearing or spoke with the meeting recorder and some sent letters or public comment forms to TDOT.
Analysis of the public input indicates the following:
Twenty-three respondents oppose the bypass
- four of these respondents oppose it as it is currently proposed
- three were local business owners
- all but two were Blount County residents or business owners negatively affected by the bypass
Thirty-nine respondents do not oppose the bypass
- eight (20.5%) were local government officials
- two were spouses of local government officials
- one is from an asphalt company
- eight (20.5%) were from a local producer of construction aggregates: primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel
- two were involved in commercial real estate development
- two were owners of multiple car dealerships on Alcoa Highway in Alcoa
- one is a local business owner
- sixteen were citizens where any affiliation was unidentifiable, three of these were not from Blount County and six travel Alcoa Highway to work every day
- thirteen (33.3%) were not Blount County residents and/or do not have a business with a presence in Blount County
Nineteen respondents were not definitive on whether they opposed the bypass or not, they were mostly concerned with safety on Alcoa Highway and noise pollution
- one is a local government official
- one represents the Blount County Chamber of Commerce
- two were from a local producer of construction aggregates: primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel
- three were local business owners
- all but three were Blount County residents or business owners that might be negatively affected by the bypass
The Federal Highway Administration has announced four proposed routes for the controversial I-3 project to connect Savannah GA to Oak Ridge. One of the routes would connect on this end via U.S. 129 (Alcoa Highway) to I-140.
There is talk that the $50 billion interstate, which is longer than the existing I-95 to I-26 to I-40 route, will provide a direct route for shipping toxic, weapons grade nuclear materials and waste between the DOE's Savannah River Site nuclear weapons facility and ORNL. There doesn't appear to be any other logical explanation or justification for the massive environmental impact that this new, expensive, and unneeded interstate would cause.
Either way, we don't need even more traffic from a new interstate coming through Blount Co., and we don't want traffic carrying radioactive waste.
In response to an open records request, TDOT has provided copies of public comments received during the written comment period following the the Nov. 9th public meeting.
We have posted the entire document here and included a link in the Resources section.
There are some particularly interesting items in the document:
1. The letter to TDOT from Alcoa Inc. outlining their objections to the bypass project as currently proposed. An excerpt:
While we are sensitive to the safety concerns surrounding the current Alcoa Highway, we are not in support of the Bypass Project as presented at the public meeting.
The proposed route presents serious negative impacts to Alcoa Inc. The impacts are numerous and include, but are not limited to, the following facts:
1. More than 240 acres are impacted by the proposed route - affecting at least eight separate Alcoa Inc.-owned parcels. The impact includes the actual right of way necessary for the construction of the Bypass as well as the surrounding land, much of which will be stranded from road access, irregularly shaped, and virtually worthless after the Project is completed.
2. These 240 acres were acquired by Alcoa Tennessee Operations over the years at market value to provide necessary buffer property around the Alcoa North Plant which currently employs almost 800 Tennesseans.
3. Over the years, this land has been dedicated to green space, agricultural uses and most recently as part of a Switch Grass Bio Fuels project, which would not be able to continue once the Project is constructed. The commercial potential of this property is very valuable and important for Alcoa to preserve.
4. Alcoa Inc. property accounts for approximately 45 percent of the project's total affected acreage.
2. A letter to TDOT from the City of Rockford expressing concerns about the project:
The City has received numerous complaints regarding the noise issue due to the project's proximity to the Singleton Station Road and Glenmore Estates residents. It appears that an eight lane super highway will be constructed within a few hundred feet of these residents' front doors.
3. A letter to TDOT from the City of Alcoa requesting several modifications to the proposal presented at the Nov. 9 public meeting. The requested modifications include another realignment to address Alcoa Inc.'s concerns, however the City notes that "the City would not support any changes that would unduly delay the implementation of this project."
This last item is disturbing, because TDOT Environmental Division Director Suzanne Herron told us that the final environmental document was nearing submission to FHWA for approval and no more public hearings were planned. If major modifications are made, a new EA should be prepared and a new round of public meetings should be held.
Actually, it is our position that a full Environmental Impact Statement should be prepared, and that it should include the original proposal to improve the existing corridor as a build alternative, and public meetings should be held on the EIS.
Today I spoke with TDOT Environmental Division Director Suzanne Herron regarding our concerns about the project and the level of public involvement, our request for a full EIS, and our request for the original corridor improvement proposal to be included as an option for public comment on a preferred build alternative.
We discussed the decision to require only an Environmental Assessment (EA) instead of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and what oversight the FHWA had in that process. Ms. Herron said that TDOT makes an initial assessment regarding the level of environmental documentation needed based on NEPA and FHWA guidelines, the type and scope of the project, the anticipated level of environmental impact, and their past experience with similar projects. She said their recommendation is then submitted to the FHWA, who either approves the decision or not. She also mentioned that TDOT has a good working relationship and open lines of communication with FHWA on such matters. In this case, FHWA approved the preparation of an EA.
I asked if there were any records of the decision making process behind TDOT's recommendation to the FHWA and the justification for only preparing an EA. Ms. Herron said there probably were but she would have to look for them. I said we would submit an open records request.
I asked if there was any way that TDOT or FHWA would consider requiring an EIS for the project. Her response suggested it wasn't likely at this point in the process.
I also asked why the original existing corridor improvement was not included as a build alternative in the 2004 EA. Ms. Herron said she did not know and that the 2004 EA only mentioned it as a "previously studied" alternative. She said she would have to research it further.
Ms. Herron did agree to discuss with her manager the possibility of including the original existing corridor improvement as a build alternative in the final EA document. I asked if it was her professional opinion that it should be included, and she said in effect that she would have to study the history, the rationale and the local politics involved.
Regarding the current status of the project and the environmental documentation, Ms. Herron dropped a bombshell. She said it was her understanding that TDOT was finalizing the environmental documentation (the EA) for submission to the FHWA, and that typically at this point there would be no further public meetings required because they had already been held on the EA as proposed.
I pointed out that some things had changed since the last public meeting in November.
First, TDOT officials said at that meeting that noise impact and abatement studies had not yet been performed, but they would be as part of the final design and there would be public hearings on the findings. (I'm not exactly clear if that would be during the environment phase or the final design/build phase.)
Second, I noted out that Alcoa Inc. Tennessee Operations had recently expressed concerns about the bypass as currently proposed, saying that "much about the physical and economic landscape of the area has changed" since the original 2004 proposal and that "these changes mandate alterations to the plan." I also noted that the Alcoa City Manager was recently quoted in the local paper as saying they would be making some adjustments "to help Alcoa" (the company) and would submit them to TDOT.
So we'll see what happens next. Stay tuned.
Today I spoke with FWHA Tennessee Division Administrator Pamela M. Kordenbrock regarding our request for FHWA to require an Environmental Impact Statement for the Alcoa Parkway/bypass project and to clarify a couple of points in her previous response re. same. (See here.)
Ms. Kordenbrock said in her letter that "FHWA approved an Environmental Assessment" for the project in 2004. I asked if she could clarify that, and she said that no decision or "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) has been issued by FHWA, and that it was her understanding that TDOT has not submitted the final EA. She said that her letter was referring to FHWA's approval for TDOT to prepare an Environmental Assessment as opposed to a more thorough environmental study (i.e. Environmental Impact Statement).
I asked how FHWA arrived at a determination regarding the required level of environmental documentation (an EA v. an EIS) for a project of this scope, which involves acquisition of all new right of way as opposed to the original proposal to improve the existing corridor. She said she didn't know because that decision was made before she got there, and she referred me to TDOT.
I asked Ms. Kordenbrock if there were any FHWA records of the decision, such as meeting minutes, notes, memos, etc. She referred me to TDOT.
I asked if there were FHWA policies or procedures for approving the required level of environmental documentation. Ms. Kordenbrock said yes and that it was covered by NEPA, but that the FHWA initially lets TDOT make that determination acting on behalf of FWHA, and then FHWA either approves it or not. She again referred me to TDOT regarding their decision to prepare an EA v. an EIS.
I then asked if FHWA was not the regulator in charge of overseeing TDOT highway project environmental documentation and complance with NEPA. She conceded that yes, they were, and referred me to TDOT for more information.
Several times during our conversation, Ms. Kordenbrock said that I still had time to submit comments to TDOT regarding the project because no decision had been made regarding the EA. I explained that we had submitted comments to TDOT but that we were also asking FHWA, as part of FHWA's regulatory oversight authority, to require TDOT to prepare a full EIS and to include the original existing corridor improvement proposal as an option for the public to comment on a preferred build alternative. Ms. Kordenbrock suggested that I express my concerns to TDOT.
This is an unsatisfactory response from the FHWA. The FHWA is the regulator, but they are deferring to the regulated (TDOT) regarding FHWA oversight.
I concluded by asking Ms. Kordenbrock to at least file our letter away and read it again when TDOT submits their final EA for FHWA approval, and to consider requiring an EIS and public hearings on a preferred build alternative that included both the bypass and the existing corridor improvement options.
About this site
- FHWA EIS request update: TDOT response (4 replies)
- Development not controlled on Alcoa Highway (10 replies)
- TDOT Transcript of Public Hearing - Nov. 9, 2010 (4 replies)
- USA Today: Cities are removing downtown highways (5 replies)
- Coordinated effort by local government and business to push through bad project? (8 replies)
- Community impact (6 replies)
- New TDOT website: Relocated Alcoa Hwy Project (7 replies)
- Alternatives (13 replies)
- Maryville Daily Times report on our meeting with Alcoa city officials (2 replies)
- TDOT: Noise Reduction up to locals (4 replies)
- Alcoa "Parkway" TDOT public hearing (3 replies)
- Safety (11 replies)
- TDOT PROJECT WEBSITE
- FHWA/TDOT Finding of No Significant Impact
- 1998 TDOT proposal EA with public comments
- 2004 TDOT proposal EA with public comments
- TDOT transcript of Nov. 9 2010 public meeting
- TDOT public comments received after Nov. 9 2010 meeting
- Raw audio recording of Nov. 9 2010 TDOT meeting
- Map of proposed route
- Knox TPO Feb. 2010 Agenda w/attachments
- Map of local area TDOT projects
- Knox TPO Long Range Transportation Plan Update
- Knox TPO Transportation Infrastructure Program FY11-14
- Knox TPO Executive Board minutes Aug. 2006
- TDOT Nov. 9 2010 public meeting notice
- Printable opposition flyer for public meeting
- Maryville Daily Times ad
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- Tennessee Department of Transportation
- Knoxville Region Transportation Planning Office