The TPO’s mission is to advise and assist our region to improve and expand transportation choices by involving citizens and decision-makers in our plans, forums, and outreach. Every four years, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) review and evaluate our planning process to ensure that we’re meeting the federal requirements and regulations in place to help us realize that mission.
That’s where you come in! Part of the evaluation is to hear from the public and stakeholders about how we engage with them in the transportation planning process. If you’ve been involved in one of our plans or projects over the last four years, we want to hear from you!
There are two ways to provide input.
A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 in the Community Room at Knoxville Station Transit Center at 301 Church Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37902. It will be held from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
You can also provide written or email comments to:
FHWA Tennessee Division
404 BNA Drive
Building 200, Suite 508
Nashville, TN 37212
FTA Region IV
230 Peachtree St, NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Do you know what the TIP is or how it impacts you? The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a four-year work program of transportation projects found within the Knoxville Urban Area. These projects include those relating to all modes of transportation, including walking, cycling, public transit, and automobile. By programming federal transportation investments in the region, the TIP implements the goals outlined in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) Mobility Plan 2040, which charts a long-term transportation system vision for our region.
The TIP is developed in cooperation with local municipalities, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and any affected public transportation operators. All projects in the TIP must be consistent with or selected from the MTP, and must be fiscally constrained based on estimated revenues.
In October, the Knoxville TPO Executive Board approved an update to the TIP to cover fiscal years 2020 through 2023. Within this program, more than $493 million is committed to 73 projects. Fifty-one of those are existing projects being carried over from the 2017-2020 TIP, and the other 22 are new.
With each program update, considerable funds are designated to a variety of transportation projects that have a major impact on our region. Because of this, we want to highlight a handful of those projects scheduled within the next few years.
South Waterfront Greenway – East of Suttree
Photo of redevelopment along the South Waterfront that will eventually connect to this portion of riverwalk expansion
With this project, the City of Knoxville will continue construction of the South Waterfront Riverwalk. This portion of the project will connect the section of cantilevered riverwalk along Island Home Avenue to the Suttree Landing Park riverwalk east of Foggy Bottom Street along the Tennessee River.
Total project cost: $7.8 million
Programmed for design in 2020, right of way (ROW) in 2021, and construction in 2022.
This is the first greenway project proposed by Blount County and is a link in the Maryville-to-Townsend greenway trail. It ranges from Maryville City Limits at the northwest corner of Helton Road along US 321 to Perry’s Mill parking area. The project also includes a bike access link to Old Walland Highway from Melrose Station Bridge.
Total project cost: $2.9 million
Programmed for design in 2020 and seeking construction funding through TDOT’s multimodal access grant
A Rails to Trails project is underway on abandoned rails from Elza Gate Park at the Oak Ridge Turnpike to the Y-12 National Security Complex on Scarboro Road and along Belgrade Road, Warehouse Road, Fairbanks Road, and Lafayette Drive. This project connects major employment centers, neighborhoods, and schools while providing an alternative route for non-motorized travel through the city’s most developed area.
Note – link references old cost estimate, so could lead to confusion about total cost
TPO – Regional Pavement Management System
The project will use data to evaluate roadway pavement conditions to determine needs and cost estimates for resurfacing and other treatments. This system, which is based on the most current pavement data collection technology, GIS software, and other pavement management software tools, will allow local jurisdictions to prioritize maintenance and rehabilitation treatments within various budget scenarios. The project is open to all jurisdictions within the TPO planning area that want to participate.
Total project cost (estimate is contingent on how many jurisdictions participate): $625,000
Programmed for implementation in 2020
TPO – Section 5310 Funds
Photo of TPO staff Doug Burton and Dori Caron awarding a van to the Sertoma Center through the 5310 program
This project provides ongoing funding to enhance mobility for senior and persons with disabilities. The funding is awarded to programs that serve the special needs of transit-dependent populations beyond traditional public transportation services and Americans with Disabilities Act complementary paratransit services. The project is open to all jurisdictions within the TPO planning area.
This study will prioritize needed road improvements based on existing and proposed land use, taking into account crash data, traffic volume, and road widths. The study will develop proposed road cross sections and help direct community investments to prepare the county for continued growth. Operational and multi-modal opportunities will be addressed. The Northshore Drive corridor will be a particular focus of the study.
Total Project cost: $625,000
Programmed to study in 2020
TDOT – Pellissippi Parkway/Hardin Valley Interchange
Section of Hardin Valley Road near where the interchange improvements will occur
This project will modify the existing interchange to improve capacity, safety, and operations. It will also add a new northbound on-ramp in the northeast quadrant.
Total project cost: $6.8M
Programmed for NEPA, design, ROW and construction in 2020
TDOT – Alcoa Highway from Woodson Drive to Cherokee Trail Interchange
This project will widen a section of Alcoa Highway from four lanes to six. It also includes the construction of a segment of the Knox-Blount Greenway through the corridor. This is one phase of the overall improvement project for Alcoa Highway that includes widening, new access roads, roundabouts, greenways, and other enhancements along the entire length of the heavily trafficked highway.
Knoxville-Knox County Planning recently completed a parking space count for the City of Knoxville. The project started with work compiled by an undergraduate GIS class at the University of Tennessee and completed by an intern and other staff.
The data was then analyzed, looking at parking spaces throughout the city for customers, employees, residents (multi-dwelling units with parking lots, not single-family homes), and students. The parking count did not include truck loading and unloading, temporary trucks lots, car sales lots, or abandoned or overgrown lots. Those spaces were, however, counted as “quasi-parking.”
In the entire city, 4,182 acres are consumed by parking, which is 6.27 percent of the city’s land. Another 1,452 acres are consumed by quasi-parking, which is an additional 2.18 percent.
In our analysis, we looked at how much space (percent) parking took up in each land use. The ranking was:
Public and quasi-public land (parks, schools, and churches)
Right of way (roads)
Then, for each land use, we took out the amount of land consumed by parking and counted parking as its own land use (even though it isn’t traditionally) to see how it compared. In this exercise, we ranked the different land uses by area in acres and came up with the following:
This analysis shows us that roughly a quarter of our city is consumed by pavement, with 17% dedicated to roads and 8% to parking.
We put this information together and took it to Knoxville’s Park(ing) Day event, which took place on Gay Street on September 20. The event is recognized around the world by groups and individuals who claim a parking space for the day and dedicate it to human use instead of a parked car. Many people create small park spaces, drawing attention to the incredible amount of space our cities have dedicated to cars and how that space could be repurposed for people to use.
At the event, we had an activity set up where we asked participants to guess the percentage of land consumed by different uses in the city. Most people were surprised by how much land was dedicated to cars, especially when compared to other uses. We also asked people to guess how many parking spaces there were at East Town Mall, Downtown West, and Carson Point on Chapman Highway. They were again surprised by just how much parking is located at these locations.
Finally, we had information set up to get people thinking about possible redevelopment opportunities for all those parking lots. We often hear that development opportunities within the city limits are limited because almost all the land has already been developed. But with the amount of space taken up by parking (and much of it underutilized) and the increased flexibility allowed within the city’s updated zoning ordinance, which is set to go into effect January 1, 2020, there are opportunities to make use of those spaces. An example of that is the announcement of Stockyard Lofts, a mixed-use development proposed for what is currently a parking lot in the Old City.
Planning’s interest in this was sparked by the CityLab article, “Parking has Eaten American Cities,” which compares the amount of land consumed by automobile parking in five other U.S. cities and considers the implications of that use. So, has parking eaten Knoxville? Our analysis shows that eight percent of our city is taken up by parking. That may not sound like a lot, until you consider how much of that space is underused or unused. Taking that in account allows us to start thinking about how we can reuse and repurpose some of those spaces, whether it’s by creating a small park or a mixed-use development with 152 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail space.
Let us know what you think about the draft FY 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)! The TIP is a short-range plan which includes all of the transportation projects that will be funded, designed, and built over the next four years. The TIP implements the transportation system vision established with the long-range Mobility Plan 2040.
Intrigued by this work, the TPO wanted to know how Knoxville compares. Staff coordinated with the University of Tennessee – Knoxville to start the project through an undergraduate GIS class. More than 142,000 parking spots were identified after reviewing less than half of off-street parking in the city!
To complete this project, TPO hired Brennan Wilson as an intern to continue counting parking spots and analyze the final data. Brennan graduated from UT – Knoxville in May with a bachelor’s degree in geography. Working in the KGIS database, he is reviewing and counting parking areas and parking lots, developing methods to inventory on-street parking, and developing analyses such as parking per capita and parking per gross floor area on commercial parcels.
“I’m hopeful that my work can help make Knoxville a more environmentally conscious and efficient city while also exploring alternative travel methods,” Brennan said when asked about the project.
We’re looking forward to digging into his findings once the project is complete. We expect that the results will help guide future planning efforts and could eventually change the landscape of our city.
The three entities received a set of three technical assistance workshops and three webinars that were held between September 2017 and January 2018.
This support was designed to develop strategies for collaborating with TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) and implementing, funding, and supporting Complete Streets.
Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville each hosted one of the workshops, tailored to the region’s specific opportunities and challenges to Complete Streets implementation. The workshops provided participants with tools and strategies to implement Complete Streets that advance economic, health, and community vibrancy goals.
To compile the data used for these infographics TPO staff verified crash locations and assigned crash factors based on information obtained from individual crash reports, including crash narratives and information about citations issued.
In addition to the infographics, this data can also be viewed on an interactive map that was released last fall. It allows users to explore information specific to the type of crash, crash factors and an overview of all the data.
On rural roads, lack of sidewalks is the most common factor in crashes involving people walking or riding bicycles. The footpath that runs alongside the road pictured here makes it clear that a sidewalk is needed.
This data is important to the TPO’s work because 90 percent of the crashes recorded from this five year period resulted in injury or death of a person walking or bicycling. The goal in identifying and analyzing the information is to prevent future crashes through engineering, education, and enforcement.
Local solutions are being found for some of the issues presented. In the Knoxville Region, 39 percent of traffic crashes that involve bicyclists and 48 percent of those involving pedestrians are caused by a motorist failing to yield when making a turn. After identifying a high number of these crashes, the City of Knoxville banned right turns on red at the intersection of Cumberland Ave. and Melrose Place.
The pedestrians shown here are unable to cross the road, despite having a walk signal, due to traffic failing to yield.
Another solution is the use of a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI), like the one that has been installed at the traffic signal at the intersection of Downtown West Boulevard and Ray Mears Boulevard. This technology gives pedestrians the walk signal three to seven seconds before motorists get the green light to proceed through the intersection, allowing walkers to establish their presence in the crosswalk ahead of motor vehicles.
A National Issue
National attention has been given to some of the same issues presented in these infographics. A recent news article reports that allowing right turns on red increases the risks of injury and death to those walking or riding a bicycle. Another article states that the number of people who die in a traffic crash while walking has risen significantly over the last decade, and that most of those crashes are occurring on arterial streets. The National Transportation Safety Board studied the dangers of speeding and found that 31 percent of traffic fatalities are speed related.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you – the Smoky Mountains can be seen more clearly and more often thanks to recent air quality improvements.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Images from the Look Rock Observation Tower compare conditions in the months of July 2004 and 2016. Daily ozone levels peak during summer months, causing hazy and smoggy conditions. Thanks to successful efforts to reduce airborne pollutants, improved clarity of the atmosphere between these periods is striking and shows dramatic effect on visibility on an every-day basis. Source: National Park Service
Major improvements to air quality over the last several years mean that the East Tennessee region is now meeting all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. And that’s very important for the health of both our residents and our economy.
Over the last several decades, the Knoxville region has been out of compliance with EPA standards for two pollutants – ozone and particulate matter – and was officially designated a ‘non-attainment area.’ That designation carried a heavy cost: it meant the air was sometimes unhealthy to breathe and it kicked in federal restrictions on some types of new business recruitment, detrimental to the regional economy.
Most air pollution is from man-made sources, especially transportation (vehicle tailpipe and fuel evaporation emissions) and industry (manufacturing and power generation involving combustion). Investments by power generators, such as TVA, and technological improvements to vehicle fleets have resulted in pollutant reduction.
Results of our efforts to comply with Clean Air Act standards can be seen in some pretty impressive stats: in 1999, we exceeded ozone limits (70 parts per billion) on more than 120 days. In 2017, that number dropped to just one day.
This chart shows the number of days each year since 1997 that monitoring equipment in the Knoxville region recorded pollution that exceeded the federal eight-hour ozone standard. Source: Air Data. EPA
While EPA attainment status is critically important in ensuring clean air to breathe, increased visibility has another big benefit to many people. Our region relies on its natural beauty and views, both of and from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for our own enjoyment as well as for the major economic impact as a driver of tourism.
Average visibility distances from the Smokies have been gauged since 1990. Tremendous and sustained improvement has been measured since 2007 — on a typical day, Mount LeConte is now visible from many parts of the region.
Others have taken notice of our improved air quality, evidenced by a recent article published by the American Lung Association. They spotlight the success of Knoxville in cleaning up its air and offer details about the process that made such significant progress possible.
Realtime Visibility and Pollutant Conditions from Look Rock