The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will not build the Knoxville Parkway Project, also known as State Route 475 and the Orange Route, TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely confirms.
Nicely cited recent traffic studies and cost as reasons for the decision to select a “no build” option. The “no build” option is included in all environmental studies conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, and this is the first time in recent history TDOT has has selected this option.
“After looking at recently updated traffic projections it is clear the parkway project no longer fulfills its original purpose and need,” Nicely said in a written statement. “Estimated to cost at least one billion dollars, the parkway project is also cost prohibitive, so we have decided to terminate the environmental studies on this project. Today’s decision should relieve some of the uncertainty for residents, businesses and property owners along the proposed corridor.”
The Knoxville Parkway project (SR-475) dates back to the mid-1990s. In 2003, it was one of 15 contentious projects selected for review when the Bredesen Administration took office. TDOT decided to move forward with development of the project through the Context Sensitive Solutions process which included the involvement of a Citizens Resource Team.
In 2006, the resource team recommended the Orange Route with a number of significant changes, including the reduction in the number of interchanges from five to two.
As part of the review, TDOT then began the process of creating a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. As part of that process, TDOT worked with the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) to update traffic projections for the proposed route.
“The revised traffic projections show a much lower level of traffic using the new Knoxville Parkway project and a smaller diversion of traffic from I-40 and I-75 than what was originally in the draft Environmental Impact Statement,” said TDOT Chief of Environment and Planning Joe Carpenter in a written press statement. “In collaboration with the Knoxville TPO we will now begin looking at options to improve capacity on existing corridors within this area.”
TDOT is completing corridor plans that recommend further improvements for both I-40 and I-75. Possible improvements in the area that would have been served by the Knoxville Parkway include the following:
- Expansion of the TDOT SmartWay coverage area to include I-40/I-75 from the I-40/I-75 junction to Lovell Road (SR-131).
- Widening along I-40/I-75 from the I-40/I-75 junction to east of Pellissippi Parkway (SR-162)
- Improved access to truck weigh stations along I-40/I-75 to reduce queuing at the off ramps.
- Improvements to Pellissippi Parkway.
- Widening along SR-170 (Edgemoor Road).