Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization Celebrates 40 Years

The Knoxville Regional TPO is celebrating its 40th anniversary as the region’s metropolitan planning organization.

The TPO was established in May 1977 through the appointment of an Executive Board by the Governor of Tennessee. The urbanized area initially included just the City of Knoxville and a portion of Knox County.

40 years ago…

Gas prices: $0.62/gallon

Avg cost of new house: $49,300

Avg income: $15,000

Jimmy Carter

Elected as the 39th president

Personal Computer

The world's first personal computer, the Commodore PET, was demonstrated at the winter Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. PET stood for “Personal Electronic Transactor” and was the world’s first PC to be sold to consumers. It came with a monitor, keyboard, and a cassette tape drive and was originally priced at $495.00.

Apple Computer

incorporated by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The Apple II computers went on sale. Unlike the original Apple I which was just a circuit board with no case, the Apple II included a case, keyboard, and nearly everything except a screen to have a working personal computer The Apple II sold for base price of $1298 (up to $2638 dependent on installed memory).

Atari 2600

First released in September. The Atari 2600 was the first major at home video game console to become popular. It launched for $199 with 2 joysticks and the game cartridge for the game “Combat.” (The success of the system was mediocre at first but it became more popular in 1980 with the release of the game “Space Invaders.”)

The first MRI Scanner

Tested in Brooklyn

Voyager I and Voyager II

Launched unmanned to explore the outer solar system

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

The first Star Wars film premiered on May 25th.


The TV Mini Series aired on ABC.

Elvis Presley

The “King of Rock and Roll” was found dead of an apparent heart attack at the age of 42. Presley died suddenly at Graceland.

James Earl Ray

James Earl Ray escaped from Brushy Mountain State Prison in Petros, Tennessee. He was recaptured on June 13.

Born This Year

Orlando Bloom

Kerry Washington

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Where were the TPO staff 40 years ago?

Doug Burton

Mike Conger

Dori Caron

Kelley Segars

Jeff Welch

Ellen Zavisca

1977 Transportation

The Knoxville TPO, in its 1977 form, was working on several issues that don’t seem very different from our current work.

  • Transit Marketing Project – $40,000 study to develop marketing efforts for the Knoxville Transit Corporation to increase ridership.
  • 1995 Thoroughfare System Plan – a 20-year plan for major highway improvements in Knox County
  • Downtown Land Use and Parking Survey – a complete inventory of downtown Knoxville land use and parking lots, used to develop a parking plan
  • Bikeway Demonstration Grant – applied for and received $89,000 of federal funds to demonstrate new techniques in bikeway safety
  • Knox County Bikeways Plan – approved by the Executive Board in June 1977
  • Knox County Airport Plan – adopted by the Executive Board in June 1977
  • Transit Passenger Shelter Study – identified potential locations for bus shelters
  • Cedar Bluff Road Traffic Improvements – identified improvements in the Cedar Bluff School area
  • CBD Shuttle Bus Project – assisted Knoxville Transit Corporation in marketing a shuttle service between the Coliseum Parking garage and downtown

How the Knoxville TPO Evolved

The 1980 Census substantially enlarged the boundaries of the urbanized area and in 1982, the TPO expanded to include more of Knox County, the Town of Farragut, the Cities of Alcoa and Maryville, and surrounding areas of Blount County. In 2000, the urbanized area again increased to include additional areas of Knox and Blount Counties as well as Lenoir City and surrounding areas of Loudon County and a portion of Sevier County in the Seymour area.

Metropolitan Planning Organizations

A metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is a federally mandated and federally funded transportation policy-making organization in the United States made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities. They were created to ensure regional cooperation in transportation planning. MPOs were introduced by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962, which required the formation of an MPO for any urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000. Federal funding for transportation projects and programs are channeled through this planning process.

Origin of MPOs

President John F Kennedy

Special Message to the Congress on Housing and Community Development (excerpts)

March 9, 1961

An equal challenge is the tremendous urban growth that lies ahead. Within 15 years our population will rise to 235 million and by the year 2000 to 300 million people. Most of this increase will occur in and around urban areas. We must begin now to lay the foundations for livable, efficient and attractive communities of the future…Land adjoining urban centers has been engulfed by urban development at the astounding rate of about one million acres a year. But the result has been haphazard and inefficient suburban expansion….

The city and its suburbs are interdependent parts a single community, bound together by the web of transportation and other public facilities and by common economic interests. Bold programs in individual jurisdictions are no longer enough. Increasingly, community development must be a cooperative venture toward the common goals of the metropolitan region as a whole.

This requires the establishment of an effective and comprehensive planning process in each metropolitan area embracing all major activities, both public and private, which shape the community. Such a process must be democratic–for only when the citizens of a community have participated in selecting the goals which will shape their environment can they be expected to support the actions necessary to accomplish these goals. I recommend therefore the enactment of an extended and improved program of Federal aid to urban and metropolitan planning…

Nothing is more dramatically apparent than the inadequacy of transportation in our larger urban areas. The solution cannot be found only in the construction of additional urban highways–vital as that job is. Other means for mass transportation which use less space and equipment must be improved and expanded. Perhaps even more important, planning for transportation and land use must go hand in hand as two inseparable aspects of the same process.

But to solve the problems of urban transportation will test our ingenuity and put a heavy drain on our resources. While the responsibility for working out these solutions rests primarily with local government and private enterprise, the Federal government must provide leadership and technical assistance.