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Standing-room-only crowd speaks out on JWP extension

12:55 AM, Dec 7, 2012   |    comments
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A standing-room-only crowed packed in to the auditorium of South Doyle Middle School Thursday night to give input on TDOT's proposal to extend the James White Parkway.

There are four options on the table. Three would connect Chapman Highway to Moody Avenue.

The proposals vary in length from 4.7 to 5.2 miles with the potential to impact between 62 to 65 homes and 2 to five businesses.

The fourth option-- to scrap the project completely-- was favored by many of the approximately 600 people in attendance.

"We are opposed to the project," said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero on behalf of herself and Vice Mayor Nick Palvis.  "We are not the bridge to nowhere anymore. We are now the bridge to an urban wilderness recreation destination."

But according to TDOT's presentation, future access to the trails that South Knoxville has worked so hard to cultivate could be at risk in down the road without the construction.

TDOT grades roads A-through-F based on how well they accommodate traffic volume.

They say gave the area north of Chapman Highway an "E," just one level short of the worst.

They project the 36,000 cars currently traveling that stretch of road daily will balloon to 58,000 by 2035, knocking the road down to an "F."

Crash data also supports the need for intervention, according to TDOT.

Since 2007 there have been 1,235 crashes on the section of Chapman Highway between John Sevier  Highway and the Henley Street Bridge.

That's double the crash rate for comparable state roads.

Rogero spoke about the need for better safety on Chapman Highway, and along with several others, encouraged TDOT to spend their money improving Chapman Highway directly.

The proposed James White Parkway extension is projected to cost about $100 million.

Though the crowd seemed to largely support Rogero's sentiments, several stood up in favor of the project.

"Without this, Chapman highway in South Knoxville is going two be at a standstill," cautioned one man who says  he's lived south of the river for 76 years. "It's time to take advantage of this with the money from the state and federal government."

But with all South Knoxville has accomplished in re-branding itself as an "urban wilderness" some, including Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis, say they've come to far to look back.

"It would be a real disservice to continue to ask them to invest in our community and for dollars already invested to fall by the wayside," says Pavlis.

Knox County officials also intend to speak out against the project.

Commissioner Mike Hammond has sponsored a resolution asking fellow commissioners to petition the state to abandon the project.

That comes up for discussion next week.

If you couldn't attend tonight but would still like to comment TDOT says the public has until January 4 to write, email, or snail-mail your suggestions.

It could be six months to eight months before any decisions are made, according to TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi.

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