We're here, will try to live blog if battery and broadband connections hold up and I can work this keyboard all scrunched over.
Full parking lot
Public gathers to review maps and plans
Meeting gets underway...
Capacity crowd, 400 maybe? (UPDATE: 560 signed in according to TDOT, many more not signed in.)
The "completion" crowd is well organized. They have green stickers that say "Yes" so they are easily identified.
Facilitator: No stake, interested in good process. Purpose is to discuss project alternatives.
Jerry Cunningham, Joe Swann, Greg McClain, Don Mull, Mark Johnson.
Doug Linney, TDOT (consultant?), Steve Allen, TDOT
Cunningham: Wonderful exercise of freedoms we enjoy. Recognizes John Lamb. Blount Co. has grown steadily for 233 years. 2% per year last 100 years. Reasons: wonderful place to live, low tax rate, Smoky Mts. (26% of land area), hospitality, natural beauty. Roads are a response to growth. Roads do not create growth. When 411 went through downtown Maryville, heard the same arguments against the 129 bypass. More examples of objection to road projects, can you imagine if it had not been done. Traffic would be bad. It’s a common sense kind of thing. We would be in a heck of a mess if those projects had not gone forward.
Swann: Governmental jurisdictions charged with managing growth in their areas. Plan is to use infrastructure to drive growth into urban growth areas to alleviate growth pressure on outlying areas (maps). Believes in centralizing population in urban areas and green infrastructure. National park, land conservancy preserve land in county, total of 33%. Growth inside urban growth area is not sprawl. I-140 is within the urban growth boundary, therefore PPE is not a sprawl issue. Sewer and water drive growth. Growth boundaries provide for drainage and ability to provide. We are supporting this highway.
Mull: Alcoa and Maryville just completed congestion and air quality mitigation project by coordinating traffic signals, reduce fuel consumption by 7% and 15% reduction in emissions. Controlled access road is good way to move lots of traffic. I-140 will reduce traffic in the urban core and accidents. Most businesses on Alcoa highway support both I-140 and the bypass. Saves fuel and is a benefit to the community.
TDOT presentation begins...
Doug Linney, TDOT: Planning, environmental, design, right-of-way, construction. Currently in environmental phase. Expected to take three years to complete environmental phase. Doesn’t need to lead to sprawl.
Purposes of project...
Alternatives: No build, public transit, transportation system management, Improve network of existing roadways in NE Blount Co., Extend Pellissippi Parkway on new location in Corridor A or B.
Complete Final EIS, Winter 2010. (Draft and public hearings winter/spring 2009.)
(Ed. Note: full presentation will be online in a couple of days.)
Ed Cole, TDOT Chief of Env. Planning: Integrating transportation and other local issues not up to TDOT, local gov. and public must be involved.
Q: What plans are there for improvement to Sevierville Rd.? Swann: 1980 had plan, to make it 3 lane to water plant, 4 lane into city. Expensive. Old infrastructure. TDOT was not willing to take it on. Don’t know if there is an update since then. TDOT? (Currently not a project). Swann: Remains a problem. Basically no plan.
Q: Feasibility study on widening 33 from James White to Lamar Alexander? TDOT: No.
Q: If no intent to improve Sevierville Rd., how will handle traffic it brings to Sevierville Rd. (applause). Knox TPO: Sevierville Rd. is in long range transportation plan for 2020 and beyond because of financial issues, and improvements in the PPE interchange would be part of PPE.
Q: There was not going to be significant improvement in traffic congestion between build and no build option. Would congestion not significantly change with either option. Can we agree if we do build PPE that we can expect additional subdivisions in that area. If we have traffic problem now, and going to bring in more housing, won’t it compound our problem. Small improvement on Alcoa highway that could be fixed with bypass. TDOT: Spent a lot of time collecting data to derive traffic figures perform analysis. Consultant, Becky White: Does not agree no significant difference between build and no build. Within build traffic forecast, includes southern loop, not in build scenario, so can’t compare. Improvements with build, in simplified mapping can’t see nuances of improvement. Build model does not satisfy every traffic demand in system. Q: But only tiny bit of improvement on Alcoa. A: Too detailed, talk about after meeting. Q: Well, is it going to improve traffic? TDOT said not significantly before. A: Pose as a comment. Must move on.
Q: Little River, sewage. More asphalt, more roads, more houses, subdivisions, reach crisis point with water supply and sewer capacity. Crowd yelling, what is your question. What is being done about providing infrastructure before we build a road that encourages more growth. Shouldn’t we build the infrastructure first? Mark Johnson: Solution is to take water from different place in river, further downstream. McClain: $35 million in bonds for sewer plant to handle growth that will come whether road is built or not.
Facilitator: Can’t ask yellow card questions because they forgot to tell us you have to put your name and address.
Q: After PPE, the southern loop, 26 mile loop? Does one depend on the other, and does it follow. TDOT: As part of long range plan, 2020, has southern loop, taking into consideration Hunter Plan, new facility or improved roadways.
Q: TDOT in early stages of EIS. Given earliness, what compels local officials to support project before we have results of EIS. Swann: Road projects take a long time. Must be proactive or never get them built. Willing to see an EIS, if there are problems bigger than the benefits willing to throw in the towel. This road makes sense. Growth is going to come, we’re trying to provide infrastructure for it. Cunningham: My job to implement policy set by County Commission, which in 2001 resolution on record as supporting PPE completion, in 2002 requested EIS, bound as mayor to support those policies. Q: Second resolution was to wait for EIS. Cunningham, that may be correct, I’ll have to reread, but that’s the policy. Mull: Where would we be without our roads. What if we hadn’t widened Alcoa Hwy? Growth is going to happen. Control best we can, provide traffic system that will work.
Facilitator: Yellow card solution.
Q: Why are there plans for two new roads to be built, both PPE and Alcoa bypass to accomplish the same thing. TPO: Bypass is not parallel, not the same route.
Q: Could we instead of spending money for new roads, use to repair existing roads like Sevierville Rd., couldn’t we invest money on mass transit? TDOT: Tension between taking care of what we have and providing additional mobility. Mass transit is part of the review of alternatives in the phase project is currently entering. Always interested in creative ideas.
Q: Relocation, how many homes, what cost, how is property owner compensated, will properties be sold for commercial purposes. TDOT: Very early in EIS, have not gotten to the specifics of natural or social environment.
Q: PPE may make sense but other projects make more sense. In 2001 talked about widening Sevierville Rd., now going to bring more congestion, is TDOT working with planning commission, why allow new development? John Lamb: Put into long range transportation plan proposal to improve Sevierville Rd. Not working with TDOT, getting it on the list. Fifteen years out. Can still talk with TDOT about timing and priority.
Q: Started looking for property for schools, without really knowing where growth is going. TN Dept. of Education, 77% graduate. Half in Blount Co. system are economically disadvantaged. Six schools, including three where road feeds out are intolerable. Know where growth is going or build schools indiscriminately? Plan for roads but not for more people they bring into schools. Swann: Seeing growth in all areas of city at same rate. Problems in many schools. Growth pressure is intense. Difficult to control. It comes, handle best you can. Hope to have a good plan for school system. Primary focus of city govt. Cunningham: For past nine years, built one school per year. Actively trying to address the problem. Not aware of any plan. Can’t stop people from moving here, new people love it here too. Working hard as they can to fund what you’re talking about. Walland and Porter, new schools. Build next to county line to accommodate growing and expanding out that way. Economic disadvantaged kids, when he grew up had to move away to get job. The key is jobs. We are actively soliciting clean industry to create jobs and keep people here. Denso, Standard Air. Not an overnight solution.
Q: How will decision be made between route A and route B with regard to environmental impacts? TDOT: At some point TDOT will make a decision.
Q: 411 has heavier traffic than 321. Why not extend first to 411 where congestion and big trucks. TPO: Logical terminus at 321, planned that way.
Q: Which county officials prefer route A and route B. Cunningham: Common sense dictates route A. Fewer homes disturbed, route B more environmental impact with Crooked Creek, more bridges, A more direct. Sensitive to eminent domain. Strong believer that govt. should not take private property for commercial purposes. TDOT: Decision is a year away, this is the kind of discussion that needs to take place over the next year.
Q: 1977 three request were made by local officials. Prior to that plan for third high school. Why does it take 30 years to discuss finishing road, and school hasn’t been started or funded? TDOT: Major investments take a long time.
Out of battery...
TDOT loaned me some power...
Audience voted to forgo comment period to continue question period.
Q: EIS, Little River, one year away from EIS, started two years ago, in 2008 should at least have an outline on EIS? What in the EIS are you addressing on Little River? TDOT: Alternatives will be evaluated to bring us to the draft EIS. Water impacts, over past two years, statewide storm water management plan due to past problems during construction phase, addressing water quality through every step of process.
Q: How will the road be made compatible with the neighborhood? TDOT: Look at noise barriers, berms, landscaping.
Q: Runoff water, move population to NE part of county. Local officials on the record in this meeting that they will extend sewage to NE part of county. Are you on the record to extend sewer before highway is built. McLain: Master plan takes in entire growth area. Growth will come, we are planning for it. Difficulty is prioritizing. Planning staffs, engineering staffs, analyzing. Extending in three or four places but may take decades. Q: So we’ll be drinking waste while we wait for you to extend it?
Q: How many trips do 25,000 more people generate, and what about bike trails outside right of way. TDOT: Use Knoxville TOP plan to estimate trips per population. Bike trails are part of design process, make that known during EIS process.
Q: With TDOT models, will they in doing EIS be looking into economic aspects of impact on city and county budgets. TDOT: Secondary cumulative analysis is required. Heard from mayors, TDOT, planners, we are working together. TDOT cannot talk about Blount Co. finances. Make your concerns known during EIS part.
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