In response to an open records request, TDOT has provided us with copies of the original 1998 Environmental Assessment for proposed Alcoa Highway improvements with public comments and the revised 2004 Environmental Assessment with public comments. We have included links to these documents in the "Resources" section on the right.
The original 1998 TDOT proposal was to improve the existing Alcoa Highway between Pellissippi Parkway and Hunt Road. It involved widening, limited access frontage roads, and a bridge to connect them.
The 2004 TDOT proposal scrapped that plan and replaced it with the currently proposed bypass. The report includes a discussion of the original proposal and how it came to be shelved in favor of the current proposal as a result of requests by local government officials and the chamber of commerce:
The proposed alignment of the build alternative considered in the 1998 EA began approximately 196 feet north of the existing Airport Road Bridge with two 12-foot traffic lanes in each direction, separated in the center by a 14-foot median with a center concrete median barrier. The proposed outside shoulders were 10-foot and the inside shoulders were 6-foot in width. That cross section began to transition near Cusick Road into three 12-foot traffic lanes in each direction separated in the center by a 22-foot median with a center concrete median barrier, with inside and outside shoulders of 10-foot. That cross section continued through the end of the project at Pellissippi Parkway.
Frontage roads consisting of two 12-foot traffic lanes and separated form the main line by a concrete median barrier were also proposed. Airbase Road on the west and Northpark Boulevard on the east would have been relocated to provide an interchange with the frontage roads. An interchange was also proposed at Wrights Ferry Road that would have required additional relocation on the east side. A bridge over the main line at Cusick Road was proposed to be constructed to provide access between the two frontage roads. Several slip ramps through the concrete barriers were proposed to provide connection between the main line and frontage roads. The overall design was to provide access control on the main line and allow the frontage roads to handle local traffic.
Comments received from agencies, organizations, and the general public were taken into consideration during development of the 1998 build alternative. Subsequently, the City of Alcoa and the Blount County Chamber of Commerce held workshops to deal with perceived deficiencies in the design.
Business owners had three primary concerns: (1) diminished access and visibility of their property after the completion of the project; (2) disruption to commerce that would occur during construction; and (3) ROW impact to their property. Likewise, the City of Alcoa was concerned with the potential loss of tax revenue during construction and substantial cost associated with relocation and adjustment of municipally owned utilities. Other non-municipally owned utilities would be faced with major relocation projects and associated costs. The City of Alcoa predicted the possibility of losing car dealerships to another location should the dealerships encounter a long-term loss of business.
Following the workshops, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, business owners, and government officials began to seek alternative solutions to the needs of increased safety and capacity on State Route 115. Several ideas and plans were presented and the relative merits and weaknesses of each were considered. The concept of an alternate corridor was deemed to have the most potential for success.
At the 2004 public meeting, citizens in attendance raised two specific concerns regarding this process.
First, the 2004 Environmental Assessment included only a "no-build" and "build" option, with the "build" option being the bypass. The originally proposed "in place" improvements were not included for consideration as an alternative or for public comment.
Second, a question was raised as to why a full and comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement was not required for the new plan, which is a significant departure from the original plan and involves significantly more right of way acquisition and environmental impact, not to mention more than double the cost.
The currently proposed plan and Environmental Assessment presented at the Nov. 9th 2010 public meeting is essentially the same as the 2004 proposal and assessment. TDOT is preparing to submit it to the Federal Highway Administration for a "finding of no significant impact" (FONSI), which would allow the project to proceed with acquisition of right of way.
We are concerned that state and federal officials who will make the final decision and fund the project are not being given all the alternatives from which to choose, nor is the public being given an opportunity to voice a preference. Further, while local officials make some good arguments for the bypass, the current proposal represents the interests of local business, some of which are no longer in existence, with little consideration for the general public's concerns.
We also question how a project of this size and scope can be allowed to proceed without an Environmental Impact Statement. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) gives federal agencies wide latitude and discretion in making this decision, but too often such decisions are a result of a flawed process and incomplete information.
Please take some time to review these documents, including the correspondence and public comments, to decide for yourself if the process that has gotten us to this point is a responsible and appropriate way to conduct the public's business.
About this site
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- 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