‘Walkability, Advanced Traffic Management’ among Chamber Infrastructure topics

From relieving traffic to the possibilities of “choice” lanes, Town of Farragut, state and Knox County officials shared what they are doing to help deal with the population growth in regards to area roads during a Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Speaker Series on Infrastructure Impact held in Fox Den Country Club Thursday, May 4.

“I want to find out if they are going to put some (short cuts) for us to get to work,” said Bin There Dump That consultant Connor Buis, who was among 130 who attended the breakfast series. “I’m on the road all day.”

A panel consisting of Farragut Mayor Ron Williams; Steve Borden, Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 1 director/assistant chief engineer; Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs; and Jim Snowden, Knox County chief engineer, fielded questions about traffic and other road concerns.

“What are the biggest trouble spots you hear about traffic in Farragut and surrounding areas?” moderator Whitney Kent, WVLT-TV account executive/host, asked Williams.

He answered the Interstate’s proximity affects the Town’s traffic.

“All of us locals, we just get over to the left lane (of Interstate 40/75) and, in a few minutes, we get through it. We get off at Campbell Station and Watt Road,” Williams said.

“But the travelers don’t know that,” he added. “They see (congestion) and they hop on their Google (GPS) or whatever else and it says to get off and go to Kingston Pike and take a right, go to Campbell Station, take a right and get back on the freeway.

“So, really with the new exits that are going to be done at Campbell Station and Watt Road and, I assume, widening of the freeway, I think that will help the traffic jams that we have.”

He added the Town also is in Phase 1 of obtaining the Advanced Traffic Management System, a traffic light upgrade allowing the Town to manage the lights to help alleviate traffic when needed.

Countywide, “even relatively short distances, 2 to 3 miles, can be insurmountable when sidewalks don’t exist along major thoroughfares. In addition to working on improved mass transit, are there plans to look at longer distance walkability?” Kent asked county panelists.

“One thing that is very important to us is parental responsibility zones,” Jacobs answered. “According to law, if you live a mile-and-a-half (from) an elementary school, we’re not required to provide bus transportation.

“In a lot of cases, those kids are going to walk to school, and for parents, without a sidewalk, we literally made it impossible for them to comply with the law safely,” he added. “That’s something we’re looking at.”

Knox County is collaborating with City of Knoxville and Town of Farragut to update the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Transportation Plan through Advance Knox, which is being considered.

“One of the things we want to do to further that walkabilty goal is to have places more conducive to walking, (such as) Town centers and corridor redevelops, where developments connect with each other,” Snowden said.

Regarding state highways and Interstates, Kent asked about “easy path lanes.”

“Governor (Bill) Lee signed the Transportation Moderation Act recently, and the legislation included a choice lane for Tennessee drivers who can pay to avoid congestion during peak hours,” she added in her question. “Where will those first be implemented and soon can we see them?”

Borden estimated those lanes are about seven years out, “but we’re at the beginning of the process.”