As mentioned by TDOT officals at Tuesday's meeting, the proposed Alcoa Parkway/bypass is one phase of several projects to improve Alcoa Highway all the way to I-40 in Knoxville.
The section in Knox County from Maloney Rd. north to Montlake Dr. is also scheduled for improvement, and in fact is a little farther along. The Environmental Assessment has been approved and some right-of-way acquisition has begun, although construction is a long way off.
There are remarkable similarities between this stretch of Alcoa Highway and the Airport/Motor Mile project area - dangerous intersections, commercial development close to the highway, congestion, and problems with speeding and fatal accidents. One difference is the amount of commercial truck traffic from Airbase Rd. and some light industrial on the other side.
A reader sent some documents and drawings accumulated as part of a neighborhood history project that detail the Maloney Rd./Montlake Dr. improvements, which are summarized as thus:
...a partial access control facility to improve safety and efficiency for traffic movement from just south of Maloney Rd. to north of Montlake Dr. with minimum interference. The proposed improvements are designed to eliminate left turns on and off Alcoa Highway. In addition, no median openings will be constructed, and for this project three bridges over Alcoa are proposed. The design speed is 50 mph.
The proposed improvements to the corridor will include three 12-feet traffic lanes in each direction, a twelve-foot outside shoulder for each traffic direction, and a median with a concrete barrier, thereby requiring a 138-feet proposed right of way.
A more detailed description can be found here.
The project is currently listed on the TDOT/TPO Long Range Transportation plan with a cost of approx. $30 million.
Here's a simplified drawing of the proposed improvements:
More detailed TDOT right-of-way drawings here and here.
This plan could almost be lifted and dropped right on the Airport section of Alcoa Highway to solve the problems that a proposed bypass would address. In fact, it appears to be exactly what this section of road needs at less than one-third the cost with little or no environmental or community impact.
The Maryville Daily Times has an interview with Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson about the Alcoa Parkway/bypass project. Mr. Johnson explains some of the history, including objections from the business community regarding an earlier TDOT plan to correct the existing highway. He also invites citizens to come talk to the city about the project.
From the article:
He also reported the noise issue was raised Tuesday night.
"I hear from my house (in St. Ives Subdivision) the constant roar of Alcoa Highway. It's not burdensome. I don't hear the jets anymore," Johnson said.
We are a little surprised by these remarks from the usually more circumspect Mr. Johnson.
One of our requests at last night's meeting was for TDOT to put up a project website with comprehensive info about the project.
Yvette Martinez, TDOT Region 1 Community Relations Officer, said at the meeting that she would look in to it.
We have just been advised by Ms. Martinez the request went to TDOT headquarters in Nashville first thing this morning and TDOT web personnel are already working on it. She said she would keep us posted on when the site will go live.
She also forwarded our follow-up suggestions for what information should be included on the site.
Thanks to Ms. Martinez for being so responsive.
Here's a summary, we'll have a more detailed report in the next day or so.
Turnout was good. We estimate 60-75 citizens, plus several TDOT and local government officials.
The purpose of the meeting was an overview presentation of the project, the benefits, the current status, and discussion of the draft Environmental Assessment report. Copies were available for review (it is 150-200 pages). There were also maps of the preferred route.
According to TDOT officials, the EA is the same one presented in 2004 with no substantive changes. The project is still in the environmental phase. Read more about that process here.
TDOT wanted public comments restricted to a mail-in form or verbally to the court reporter on hand. There was a Q&A session following the presentation that lasted a little over an hour. Several people commented anyway, or made their opinion known in the form of questions.
The public participants appeared overwhelmingly opposed to the project.
One businessman spoke in support of the bypass and complained about all the negative comments and questions. He put out an altar call for local officials to come up and talk about the positive aspects of the proposal. Alcoa Mayor Don Mull spoke in favor of the project, along with a chamber of commerce representative and a Knoxville Regional TPO official.
TDOT officials were shockingly unprepared with details and answers. Several people commented on this after the meeting. One person said they felt they were being left in the dark on decisions that have already been made without any public participation.
We talked to a couple of Alcoa officials afterward who were much more forthcoming with facts and figures about why the city believes this is the best solution. TDOT should have let them run the meeting. It would have been far more informative and productive.
Anyway, the public came out and they were heard loud and clear. Local media came out to cover it, too. A Maryville Daily Times reporter was there, along with WATE and WVLT. There may have been other reporters.
We'll have more in a day or so, so check back.
WATE had a report about the project on the 5:30 news. They talked with TDOT and city officials and one local businessman about the benefits, and mentioned the opposition at stopalcoaparkway.com.
We are glad the project is getting some media coverage pending tomorrow's hearing. All affected residents should attend to learn more about what is being proposed and how it will affect the community.
A couple of notes. WATE reports the daily traffic count as 60,000 as opposed to 75,000 reported in the local paper quoting a city official last week. (TDOT says it's in the 50,000 to 55,000 range.)
WATE reports the number of fatalities as six compared to nine as reported by the local paper quoting a city official last week. (Our search of news archives only found two in the project area, but one is one too many.)
The cost has gone up from $64 million to as much as $80 million according to the WATE report. WATE also reported that there is no design but there is money in the budget for right-of-way acquisition.
The Maryville Daily Times incorrectly reports that "A public hearing on the environmental impact statement was held June 29, 2004."
To my knowledge, there has been no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this project. The meeting in 2004 was for public comment on the draft Environmental Assessment (EA).Continued...
According to The Daily Times,
“First of all we're firmly behind the Alcoa Parkway extension process. That's been something we've had multiple public hearings on. There's been involvement from the general public, governments (cities of Alcoa and Maryville, Blount County, City of Knoxville) Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, Motor Mile merchants and the Blount Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee,” he [Alcoa Assistant City Manager Bill Hammon] said.
I've been following the Alcoa Parkway bypass process and my records show the last public meeting was held by TDOT in 2004.
Maybe I missed some announcement in the paper, I don't know. I would like to know more about when and where these multiple public hearings were held. In addition, I'd like to know how the public was notified of these meetings.
We are not civil engineers, planners, traffic or highway experts, so we're not qualified to say what exactly should be done.
But, at the 2004 environmental study hearing there were several build proposals put forward. If I recall correctly, three of them were variations on the Parkway/bypass idea with varying routes that impacted more or fewer property owners, required more or less right-of-way, etc.
There was at least one proposal to redesign the existing highway that was significantly less costly. And of course there was a "no-build" option, which I don't think anyone believes is an option at this point.
Unfortunately, we have so far been unable to obtain any documents about any of the other options, but we are tracking down a lead from another TDOT official and if we find them we will post them.
Regardless, anyone who regularly travels Alcoa Highway must surely have some ideas, some more feasible than others.Continued...
I believe we all agree that Alcoa Highway is unsafe. One traffic fatality is one too many.
In the Nov. 5, 2010 Maryville Daily Times article, Alcoa Assistant City Manager Bill Hammon said, "There have been nine traffic fatalities on Alcoa Highway since January."
I'm only able to find articles referencing six fatalities. Of these six, four did not occur within this 3.1 mile section of Alcoa Highway. One accident occurred as a drunk driver was speeding on Hall Road to the Alcoa Highway entrance ramp. The other occurred at Topside Road, a mile or two north of the proposed Alcoa Parkway bypass.
In one of the remaining two accidents, someone pulled out in front of another driver. In the other accident, the driver hit another car while trying to change lanes. Both of these accidents could possibly have been prevented by corrections to the existing road.
A 3-5 mile high speed road that will flow into high density areas at both ends is a problem waiting to happen. Speed is a huge issue on all sections of Alcoa Highway. The Alcoa Police Department works hard to catch drivers exceeding the speed limit on Alcoa Highway. Drivers seem to ignore the warnings unless it directly affects them.
Slowing down the drivers and providing better controlled access to get off/on the existing road might better control the problem. Maybe a big flashing sign warning drivers to slow down would be helpful, or rumble strips on each side of the road and between lanes. I do believe that bridges over Alcoa Highway at Singleton Station Road, Airport Road, and Wright Road along with better frontage roads, and less median crossovers will make Alcoa Highway a lot safer, eliminating any need for a new 6 lane bypass.
According to the Daily Times,
Hammon [Alcoa Assistant City Manager] estimated there are more than 75,000 vehicles a day traveling Alcoa Highway, 20 percent of which are generated by McGhee Tyson Airport.
According to TDOT, the traffic counts are nearly 25,000 vehicles a day less.
- 40,825 - Alcoa Highway Station # 216, just north of Pellissippi Pkwy
- 54,620 - Alcoa Highway Station #15, just south of Pellissippi Pkwy
- 51,218 - Alcoa Highway Station # 13, just north of the airport interchange
- 51,491 - Alcoa Highway Station # 112, just south of Hunt Road
Also, I don't get the 20% generated by McGhee Tyson Airport. Based on the TDOT numbers above, it doesn't appear the traffic counts before/after the airport increase by 20%.
What are the actual traffic counts?
UPDATE: Apparently traffic counts are down from the all time high. Thus, even with the heavy residential growth in Blount County something has kept the traffic counts down. The traffic count just south of Pellissippi (station 15) is down nearly 14% from the all time recorded high in 2006, back down to 1998 levels. Is it because of the increase in gas prices? Is it because more jobs are moving to Blount County? Either way, there are better alternatives to a new 6 lane speedway through Alcoa.
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...Continued...
NOTE: I am misquoted in the article, apparently due to confusion about an Oct. 25 post on BlountViews regarding the upcoming public meeting. The blog post, which is quoted extensively in the paper, was authored by 'bizgrrl', not me as stated in the article. The Mrs. and I disagree a little on traffic lights and the ultimate cost of fixing that stretch of highway, but we do agree that a bypass might not be the best alternative.
And M. Neal (the author of the blog post in question and the organizer behind stopalcoaparkway.com) makes a good point. TDOT presented several alternative solutions ranging in cost from $1 million to $64 million. Surely there is a solution in between that will cost less and have less negative impact on the environment and the community.
Anyway, thanks to the Maryville Daily Times for keeping the public informed about the proposed Alcoa Parkway bypass and for covering opposing points of view.
UPDATE: The Maryville Daily Times has made corrections to the online version of the article.
From the Tuesday Nov. 9 meeting announcement:
"TDOT will also have representatives available to answer questions on the relocation assistance program, right-of-way acquisition, and construction."
We know there will always be some right-of-way acquisition, but who's getting relocated? Are they going to relocate a golf course? Where? Are there homes in Springbrook near the Hunt Rd. interchange that will be affected?
Anyone along the path of the "parkway" should come to the meeting and ask these and other questions.
In a USA Today article from May, 2008,
More than a dozen cities have proposals to remove highways from downtowns. Cleveland wants to remove a freeway that blocks its waterfront. Syracuse, N.Y., wants to rid itself of an interstate that cuts the city in half.
- Buffalo wants to get rid of its Skyway, an elevated highway that blocks access to Lake Erie.
- Nashville wants to replace 8 miles of interstate — parts of I-65, I-40 and I-24 — with parks and neighborhood streets.
- Washington has considered demolishing the Whitehurst Freeway, an elevated road that runs along the Potomac River in the tony Georgetown neighborhood. The plan is on hold because of cost.
- Akron, Ohio, launched a $2 million study on tearing down its 2.2 mile Innerbelt that leads downtown from I-76/I-77.
Highway removal proposals are also being discussed in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Baltimore, Louisville, New Haven, Conn., Trenton, N.J., and Niagara Falls, N.Y. The Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx is another target.
It's time to think forward.
We can't find much information about the Alcoa Parkway (bypass) project on the TDOT or Knox TPO websites, but we have posted under "Resources" (over on the right) what we have accumulated so far. If you have links to any other documents, maps, etc. please let us know.
Note: The proposed route map was provided by the City of Alcoa several years ago. It is our understanding that there are two or possibly three proposed routes, plus the no-build option. We aren't sure which option this is, but it gives a general idea of what's being proposed. We scanned the map and added notation to help orient you to where this is happening.
In the planning documents, meeting minutes, etc., you will have to search for "Alcoa" to find specific references to the project. It appears to be broken down into several phases, and we are unable to find a single, comprehensive document about the plan.
We have also included a printable flyer regarding the upcoming public hearing. Please feel free to print out copies for friends, neighbors and anyone else who might be impacted and/or should attend the meeting.
We have also included a copy of an ad that will appear in the Friday, Sunday and Monday Maryville Daily Times.
The Maryville Daily Times has a front page, top of the fold headline article about the Alcoa Parkway project.
The way it's written, one would get the idea that the project is a done deal. It uses phrases such as "will have." "will run," "will be," and "once the road is built."
Apparently the latest public hearing is just a formality. The last one was held in 2004. Has there been an environmental impact study, or did someone ordain that it wasn't needed?
The Chamber of Commerce and local government officials never met a road project they didn't like, and the Maryville Daily Times has their back. That's OK. They all believe it's in the best interest of the community, and we all agree there's a big problem with Alcoa highway. Some of us just think there may be better ways to fix it that aren't being considered.
If you think TDOT and Alcoa should consider other, lower impact alternatives then be sure to come out to the TDOT meeting next Tuesday, Nov. 9th.
When: Tue. November 9, 2010 5:00 PM
A public hearing is schedule at the Alcoa Service Center on November 9, 2010, from 5 PM to 7 PM.
Alcoa Service Center
725 Universal Street
Alcoa, TN 37701
The purpose of this site is to discuss the proposed Alcoa Parkway bypass along Alcoa Highway/U.S. 129 from Singleton Station Rd. to Hunt Rd. We believe there are more cost effective and less damaging solutions.
About this site
- TDOT public meeting on Alcoa Highway Bypass project (1 reply)
- Alternatives (9 replies)
- Request for FHWA to require an Environmental Impact Statement (2 replies)
- KNS Guest editorial: Alcoa Highway bypass: Bad process leads to bad project (1 reply)
- FHWA EIS request update: TDOT response (1 reply)
- Maryville Daily Times report on our meeting with Alcoa city officials (1 reply)
- New documents added to the Resources section: 1998 v. 2004 (3 replies)
- WATE report (4 replies)
- Maryvile Daily Times; Parkway a done deal? (1 reply)
- Stop Alcoa Parkway (10 replies)
- Comments Deadline - Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010 (1 reply)
- Noise abatement (2 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