Submitted by R. Neal on Fri, 11/05/2010 - 05:00

First off, the purpose of this website is to be constructive, not confrontational.

We understand that community leaders and local government officials believe this project is in the best interests of the community. They aren't bad people. They have serious responsibilities and take them seriously. They are doing difficult work with limited resources and doing an outstanding job for the most part, and they are frequently under-appreciated.

We just disagree a little on the approach to this project. We do, however, agree that something needs to be done about the problems along Alcoa Highway to improve safety and address capacity issues. We also believe sustainability, environmental, and community concerns should be taken into account and at least be given a fair hearing.

Some might argue that we're late to the party on this project, which has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. Mea culpa. We try to stay informed. We subscribe to two daily papers. We only learned about the upcoming TDOT meeting because it was buried mentioned briefly at the bottom of an article about local economic development.

And as bloggers, we stay pretty tuned in to the news and goings on. But somehow we missed that a preferred build alternative had been selected and that right-of-way acquisition was about to begin. To our knowledge, there has only been one public meeting about this project, and that was in 2004 concerning the environmental study. (This was confirmed by a TDOT official.) We were at that meeting, and heard the community's frustration and concerns.

Perhaps there were other meetings, announcements, notices, news, etc. along the way to keep the public informed and we just missed it. As average citizens we can't be everywhere all the time. We suspect other residents of the community are in the same boat. It could also be a reflection of local government, which does such a good job in Alcoa that folks just leave them alone to do it and assume they will do the right thing.

Anyway, in looking for more documents about the project we have been unable to locate any records of the public comments received by TDOT at the 2004 public hearing. We will follow up with TDOT and try to obtain the records, if they exist.

I did recall, however, reporting on the meeting at a previous blog that I operated, which was in fact a little more confrontational than constructive. At any rate, it's a pretty good summary of the meeting, and expresses some of the public's frustration with projects like his one and the Pellissippi Parkway extension.

From the archives of the blogger formerly known as South Knox Bubba...

Public participation: how it works
SK Bubba, July 2, 2004

Matt Edens has an interesting article in Metro Pulse about public participation in local government. He talks about the problem of apathy and has some ideas for cures.

The reason there is public apathy is because the public doesn't feel like anybody listens to them. And many times they are right.

Here's a case in point. TDOT held a "public input" meeting on a proposed Alcoa highway bypass project in Blount County. This project will bypass about three miles of U.S. 129/Alcoa Highway between the dangerous intersection at Singleton Station Road, past the airport, to Hunt Road. The new "parkway" will be a winding 5.5 mile stretch of six lane highway. The intent is to relieve traffic on this "heavily congested" stretch of Alcoa Highway.

A previous plan to widen Alcoa Highway, build frontage roads and turn lanes, improve dangerous intersections, and install traffic signals was rejected. Why? Because the Airport Motor Mile Association and other businesses along the route felt it would disrupt their business during construction. And no politician wants traffic signals on Alcoa Highway.

So instead, TDOT is proposing a $100 million (!) project to build 5.5 miles of road that will channelize a mile-long stretch of creek bed and destroy the associated riparian habitat, require three bridges to cross the creek three times (instead of taking a straight line that would have only crossed the creek once but put the route through a future EPA Supersite at an Alcoa toxic waste dump that nobody wants to dig up or even talk about), eliminate Pine Lakes Golf Course, and take several other homes and businesses. Oh, yeah. It will also open up several large tracts of vacant land for commercial development (and increased tax revenues for the City of Alcoa).

They had a nice PowerPoint slide show explaining the "process". The summary bullet points went something like:

• Feasibility study, planning and design
• Environmental impact study
• Public hearing <-- You Are Here
• Right of way acquisition
• Construction

The meeting was the public's only opportunity to provide input for the "No-Build" v. "Build" alternatives, and comment on the four (or five?) proposed "Build" alternatives which differed only slightly with respect to some of the interchanges.

The reality is that a "preferred" alternative has already been selected, the project is already funded, and construction is already scheduled.

We have unfortunately not been paying much attention to this $100 million project. We went to the meeting mainly to see the maps and what was going to happen because we live near one of the affected interchanges.

There were about 100 people at the meeting. Mrs. Bubba asked for a show of hands, and about half were concerned residents. The rest were business people or government employees.

TDOT officials and their private engineering firm consultants listened politely to the few who were actually prepared with facts and figures and good questions about the alternatives, the environmental impact, noise abatement, and so on. TDOT responded with boilerplate non-answers and moved to the next question.

They had a few copies of the 150 or so page environmental assessment available for review. It was some interesting reading. Unfortunately, they don't have it on the TDOT website, and weren't sure when it would be. Maybe in a few weeks they said. Hey, it takes about ten minutes to upload a PDF file. What's the big problem?

It is interesting, though, what you can find out talking to low-level TDOT employees in casual conversation "off the record." Such as one of them saying he has seen plans for commercial development on the site of the soon to be former Pine Lakes Golf Course, even though TDOT publicly says there are no official plans for it. Or another who said that improvements to Alcoa Highway itself would actually be a better, less expensive plan and involve significantly less environmental impact.

So basically, "public input" for a TDOT project is a farce. Comments are dutifully recorded by a court reporter, response forms are cheerfully handed out, and the bulldozers roll in.

To me, this is a pretty good example of why the public is apathetic about participation. Everything is all already arranged. "All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused."

OK, then.

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Not in the publics best interest.

The government is not looking at the whole picture of what is best for the community. There are jobs that will be lost at the golf course they are planning on going through. One of those people working there happens to be my husband and we don't appreciate the fact that he will have to search for a new job during this time when the economy is in such a slump. That golf course is also a home away from home for many people. It is a place where people gather with friends, have fun, and enjoy being outside. It is also a place for solitude, personal reflection, and a place where people can be comfortable. It was voted number one course in the Daily Times and is a very prosperous golf course. The course can bring in around up to 200 players a day in the summer. Can they seriously think it will help the community by tearing it down?It will also affect the surrounding restaurants and gas stations. Will the government replace jobs lost due to lack of customers? Probably not! They will sell unused land to make a profit. There are alternate routes that can be used and I wish they would use them. It is not fair for jobs to be cut just to create a road that ends up going nowhere and running right back into Alcoa Hwy. What is the point? Not only does it affect the people, but have they seriously considered the effect it would have on the environment? There will be wild life looking for new homes due to this uprooting. There is no reason why they couldn't 6 lane Alcoa Hwy and put up red lights. Wouldn't that be a lot cheaper than creating a road that literally goes nowhere???? DUH!!!! It has more to do with politics than the safety of the citizens. They care more about how they can use the land for future use to turn a profit than to save lives.

We, too, are surprised that

We, too, are surprised that more people aren't complaining about the loss of Pine Lakes golf course. It has been in that location for as long as I can remember. Just the other day we were wondering if the owner is ready to retire and wants rid of it. Even if that is the case you would think someone would want to buy it. Not, of course, if the government is going to take it to build a road.


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, or R. Neal, 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