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Texas DOT holds up on final parkway extension plan

TDOT has tentatively scheduled two public meetings in October to discuss that the department called a "Modified Green Alternative."

The Associated Press

8/20/2013

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville's mayor and people who have worked to build a network of trails in the southern part of the city don't want an extension of a parkway to be built.

Now, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has eased off the accelerator on the plan and will hold public meetings on a scaled-back design.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/14SvdEj ) reported opponents say the James White Parkway extension is no longer needed at all as a route into the Smoky Mountains because of extensive widening being completed on state Rt. 66.

Mayor Madeline Rogero opposes extending the road.

"The Urban Wilderness has already achieved national recognition as an outdoor recreation destination and is a key economic development and tourism opportunity for our city, region and state," Rogero said in a statement Monday afternoon. "The proposed parkway will bisect this regional asset and plow through the existing and proposed trail network and wilderness assets."

TDOT has tentatively scheduled two public meetings in October to discuss that the department called a "Modified Green Alternative."

But some advocates of the hiking and bike trail system says any road is a probem.

"It's not about the route — it's about the road," said Legacy Parks Foundation Executive Director Carol Evans, whose group has spearheaded efforts to assemble a 1,000-acre network of hiking and biking trails that is garnering national attention. "You're still bisecting the initiative. You're sort of missing the point.

"The boulevard approach doesn't change our opposition to the road."

About 200 experienced adventure racers are expected to come to the wilderness corridor Oct. 10-12 when it hosts the 2013 Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Racing Championship.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer was expected earlier this month to make a decision on the extension within the next couple of weeks. In announcing the new alternative option Monday, he acknowledged the importance of working "with local officials and communities to address their transportation needs.

Among opponents is former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe. He noted that a unanimous vote by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization in January removed the project from its three-year priority funding list.

Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

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