$20 million per mile: TDOT opens virtual-only comment on highly controversial roadway
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has opened a virtual-only public comment period for the controversial Pellissippi Parkway extension, which would slice through the remaining rural areas of Blount County and move urban expansion and increased traffic flow ever closer to the Great Smoky Mountains, one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth.
The public comment period began April 15 and will last until April 25. The project has generated controversy and lawsuits for at least two decades, but TDOT decided the comment period should be held virtually for only two weeks because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The project encompasses about four miles and will cost nearly $100 million. Opponents of the parkway say the extension is a waste of money and will destroy rural landscapes and wildlife habitat and pollute aquatic resources.
Here's a link to a story about the Pellissippi Parkway extension published in February by Hellbender Press.
According to The Daily Times, which reported the public hearings on April 19:
“'The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the department to look for alternate ways to engage and interact with the public,' TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said in a video introducing the presentation, framed as a somewhat awkward-to-navigate virtual reality room.”
“It includes a history of the project, a right of way acquisition process overview, a project design summary and a comments and questions section. A digitally generated flyover video of the planned extension shows intricate details of how the road may look once completed.”
According to the TDOT website:
“The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will host a Virtual Design public meeting from April 15, 2021, to April 29, 2021, to gather public input on the proposed project in Blount County on SR-162 Ext. (Pellissippi Parkway), from SR-33 to SR-73 (US-321).”
“The virtual meeting was opened to the public at 8:00 am EST on April 15, 2021 and will close at 10:00 pm EST on April 29, 2021. The website link is:
The proposed highway would require the acquisition of private property and extend through the Wildwood and Sam Houston areas to an abrupt terminus with East Lamar Alexander Parkway to the west of Walland, which is host to an increasing number of high-dollar hospitality attractions such as Blackberry Farm.
Right-of-way acquisitions could start by the end of the year, according to The Daily Times.
To the east of the proposed parkway's end is Townsend, which bills itself as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies.”