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By Focus Staff
After almost a month of opponents coming from seemingly every direction possible, support for the proposed James White Parkway Extension remains strong. To date Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis, the Urban Wilderness Arts & Trade District, Ijams Nature Center, the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, the Knoxville News Sentinel, Legacy Parks, and a host of others, have all expressed opposition to the project. However, those who support the project have become increasingly vocal following TDOT’s recent public hearing in South Knoxville.
Despite overwhelming opposition to the project from various political leaders and civic organizations, two Focus polls indicate support for the project remains strong among area residents. Focus Publisher Steve Hunley hired a professional polling company to query 9th District registered voters on the issue on November 15 with the question “Do you support or oppose the extension of James White Parkway from Moody Avenue, where it currently ends, to John Sevier Highway?” The week after the TDOT public meeting, the polling company re-ran the same poll.
The December 11 poll indicated that 69.29% of 9th District voters support the project. While a decrease from the November poll results, which indicated that 83.63% supported the extension, the most recent poll demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of 9th district voters still support the extension.
Safety is the predominant concern of those in favor the proposed extension. While the elected officials who oppose the project have all expressed an adamant desire to see safety improvements made to Chapman Highway, many South Knox residents want to know where, how, and when they expect to see these improvements made.
South Knox resident David Howard, who resides on Moody Ave., spoke to the Knoxville City Council at a recent meeting and in an emailed statement in which he expresses his disgust at the actions of Mayor Rogero and Vice Mayor Pavlis.
“Vice Mayor Pavlis gave a rousing speech to the faithful, even pointing out that we can put a man on the moon so we should be able to fix Chapman Highway,” said Howard, regarding the Vice Mayor’s speech during the TDOT meeting. “This was a great style without substance sound bite, but there was no plan offered to solve the deadly problems our citizens face daily on Chapman Highway.”
Howard went on to write: “Mayor Rogero, who I voted for during her election, voiced her opposition to the project without the euphoric man on the moon rhetoric, but again, no plan, no solution.”
South Knoxville resident and business owner Bobby Smeltzer, 55, also supports the proposed extension.
“I’m not against parks, but I wish our leaders were as passionate about our safety as they are about the Urban Wilderness,” Smeltzer told The Focus.
Those against the extension have also expressed concern that an extended parkway would dramatically affect the already struggling business community in South Knoxville. Smeltzer argues that the businesses might, in fact, notice an increase in revenue if the parkway were extended and traffic subsequently lessened on Chapman Hwy.
“People would probably shop in South Knoxville more often if they didn’t feel as though they were taking their lives into their hands every time they went to turn off of the road,” he added.
Additionally, one long-time South Knox resident is particularly passionate about the proposed extension citing over three decades of commitment to the project.
“I am and have been for over 30 years an advocate for the completion of JWP,” South Knoxville resident Sylvia Woods told The Focus, adding that she has been involved in the project since before the 1982 World’s Fair.
For additional project information, one can visit the TDOT website or contact Mr. Dwight Armstrong, TDOT Project Management Division, at email@example.com or (865)594-2409.
TDOT is expected to make a decision on the matter early next year. The Focus will continue to follow the story as it develops.