To push for a face-to-face meeting with state officials over Pellissippi Parkway expansion plans, Blount Countians nearly filled the Blount County commission meeting room on Tuesday.
The commissioners voted 19 to 1 at the workshop to put on the agenda for their June 17 meeting a resolution urging the Tennessee Department of Transportation to hold a “publicly announced in-person hearing at a venue that hosts a meeting. large crowd for the contribution of the public ”.
TDOT accepted online comments in late April and allowed mailed comments until the end of May on plans to extend the 4.4 mile four-lane highway from Old Knoxville Highway to East Lamar Alexander Parkway, at a current estimated cost of $ 84.3 million. A TDOT spokesperson said the online format minimized the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
“TDOT owes us a public hearing on the extension of Pellissippi Parkway,” Tom Robinson, owner of the century-old Bowman Farms near Pellissippi Place, told commissioners. “They don’t want to have to justify a road that doesn’t need to be built face to face.”
Robinson said planning for the Pellissippi Parkway began in 1971 and over the past 50 years tens of thousands of people have moved to Blount County.
One of them is Ann Tedford, who asked commissioners to look at the impact of the highway extension. In 20 years, she said, “Will we still be a county that people define by the beauty and rural character of our landscape, or will we be another version of West Knoxville or Pigeon Forge?
Jeanne LeDoux-Hickman, who lives at the corner of Jeffries Hollow and Keener Road, called for reorienting funding for the new project to address the condition of the current roads which she described as narrow and dangerous.
“Let’s not waste,” she said. “The Pellissippi promenade is not necessary. Most of us in this room don’t want it either.
Carole Olson, who lives at Sweet Grass Plantation, also spoke of the project’s long-term impact and called for open and transparent government.
All four received enthusiastic applause from dozens of other meeting attendees.
Commissioner Tom Stinnett, the only vote against putting the resolution on the committee’s agenda, said in an interview afterwards that people had had the opportunity to comment on the plan.
He recalled the controversy in the past over building other highways in the county, and said the existing part of Pellissippi Parkway had already cut its driving time to Clinton from an hour and a half to 30 minutes.
“We need to build infrastructure,” said the Commissioner of Friendsville. “If we don’t and we get stuck, then go to Madisonville, go to towns that aren’t building infrastructure and check their stuff. There are a lot of empty buildings.
Commissioners also approved for the June 17 meeting agenda plans to maintain the current property tax rate and a budget of $ 242.3 million for fiscal year 2021-2022, which begins on July 1, as well as a list of priorities for capital projects.