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.

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Bonus material

• Improvements to the existing highway would have no significant environmental, social, cultural, business, or community impacts and little impact on local tax revenues, according to the 2000 EA. All state and federal regulatory agencies, local governments, and cultural alliances signed off on the plan, with a few suggested changes.

• The bypass alternative, a new major highway, would have far more environmental and community impact. It requires all new right of way, including hundreds of acres of green space and agricultural land, and increases noise and air pollution in nearby communities and Alcoa's premier public park.

• Several of the car dealers and other businesses who objected to the improvements as originally proposed are either out of business or have already relocated.

• TDOT did not include the original improvement plan as an alternative build option in the 2004 bypass plan for consideration at either of the 2004 or 2010 public EA hearings.

• The proposed bypass is intended to route through traffic around the existing corridor, yet it has six large interchanges along its five mile route inviting more sprawl.

• The estimated cost of the bypass project has grown to over $130 million -- more than twice the estimate for the original improvement proposal (not allowing for inflation). There is also speculation that, because of recent oil price hikes, $130 million won't even cover the cost of the asphalt.

• The University of Tennessee would lose valuable agricultural research land, including 30 year projects that would have to be started over in a new location if at all.

• Alcoa Aluminum Co. says the project would have "serious negative impacts to Alcoa Inc." They have not agreed to sell any land for the project right of way.

• Local officials requested more changes to the plan after the most recent public hearing, but no new hearings have been held. The FHWA FONSI report also includes new air and noise pollution environmental data that was not included in the EA report presented for public comment.

• The TDOT EA approved by the FHWA includes wildly inflated traffic counts, and the FHWA FONSI report misrepresents public sentiment expressed at the public hearings.

• There is no foreseeable local, state or federal funding for infrastructure, traffic controls, improved access, landscaping, etc. to repurpose the bypassed section of Alcoa Highway.

• Affected communities and neighborhoods were not fully involved in the decision to scrap the original improvement plan and relocate the highway near their residences. There was little public participation in the chamber of commerce meetings and workshops, and the FHWA notes this in their FONSI report.

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About this site

The purpose of this site is to provide an online clearinghouse for information about the proposed Alcoa Parkway bypass and to promote public awareness and public participation in the process. We believe that the original proposal to improve the existing Alcoa Highway corridor needs a second look as a viable alternative for correcting safety and capacity problems, and that the public should have more input in selecting the preferred build alternative.

Contact us

Send your comments and suggestions to M. Neal, mneal@rviews.com or R. Neal, rneal@rviews.com. You can also mail your comments to Stop Alcoa Parkway, P.O. Box 490, Alcoa TN 37701. To join our mailing list for updates and new developments, please email mneal@rviews.com.