Lenoir City residents turn out for roads public forum

Tammy Cheek-News-Herald

An estimated 40 people attended a public forum Thursday at Lenoir City High School to find out more about the Harrison Road and Town Creek Parkway improvement projects.

While some think the project will help alleviate problems along Harrison Road and Old Highway 95, others worry the changes will make drainage issues worse.

I think it's probably a good thing, George McCown, who grew up in the area and owns property across the street from the high school, said. I know it's going to help the flow of traffic because it's real congested, and it will help people get to (Highway) 321.

He also thinks the project will help with drainage problems on Old Highway 95. Every time it rains, his property is flooded.

Wayne Miller, superintendent of Lenoir City Schools, is convinced that once completed the projects will provide great benefit to Lenoir City High School. In addition to improving traffic flow, the changes will provide safer walking paths for students and better access to U.S. Highway 321.

Neighboring residents, such as Vernon Jenkins, wondered if the project's proposal to dig one of the ditches deeper would not make the drainage problem worse.

I don't want the value of my property to go down because of the flooding, Jenkins said.

Another resident, Thomas Moats, said he has seen two feet of water where he lives. It's been like that for 20 years or better, he said.

Jacob Elliott, design engineer with Cannon & Cannon, the engineering firm on the projects, promised residents the firm will take another look at the drainage issues.

Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens credited City Administrator Dale Hurst and Amber Scott, the city's human resources director, with work on the long-awaited project. He said the Town Creek Parkway project, estimated at $5-6 million, was designed to help relieve traffic.

Elliott said the intent is to bid out both the projects together, using the same contractor.

Hurst noted the Town Creek project connects Old Highway 95 and Harrison Road with Highway 321. Maps made available to the public showed the road, now called Harrison Avenue, being changed to Town Creek Parkway going to Highway 321 and a new road, Harrison Avenue, connecting to Town Creek Parkway.

Hurst said the extension will open up 250 acres for development.

Part of it is already open, Hurst noted, referring to the site where Food City and other businesses are located.

There is four additional feet from where they stopped to Harrison Avenue, he said. When the economy comes back we want the infrastructure in there.

Hurst said the city received a $2 million grant for the project and was eligible because it would connect the two main road arteries of Highways 321 and 11.

He said the city was fortunate to enter into a partnership with TF Properties, an arm of Farm Bureau, which made a $2 million match on the project. That gave us $4 million to work with, Hurst said.
On the Harrison Road project, Hurst said the city has been working on acquiring state and federal funding for years but could not get enough money.

It wasn't until the census that we were obliged to be part of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Hurst said. That affiliation allowed the city to pool its resources with those of the organization and leverage more dollars for the project.

In the meantime, the area continued to grow, Hurst said, noting more subdivisions sprang up, helping the city even further.

As a result, the city was able to obtain $3.2 million for the project. Hurst said the $3.2 million is an 80-20 match with the city having to come up with $600,000 of the funding for the project.

At least for the last decade we worked with the city to come up with a solution (to the traffic), Miller said. The intersection has been a nightmare. I can assure you, they did a great job considering the future students' growth.

Elliott said the design firm had four goals:

Relieve traffic congestion at the intersection and the driveways entering the high school. He noted there will be a center turn lane, new traffic signals with improved timing and pedestrian signal.

Provide a new east and west connection from Old Highway 95 to Highway 321. By doing so, Elliott said people will not have to use Adessa Drive as much and it provides a quicker route to Highway 321.

Provide a safe, continuous walkway for students and residents that will connect the middle and high schools. In addition to sidewalks, there will also be crosswalks and more lighting.

Improve storm water drainage, especially along Glenview Drive.

Elliott said the plan is to install a concrete pipe and fill the ditch by the high school. A sidewalk will be placed over the covered ditch. The firm also plans to enlarge the ditch in front of the church, which is across from the high school.

What we tried to show is what the project will look like, Harold Cannon, owner of Cannon & Cannon, said.

Elliott said the plan is to do the work on Town Creek starting in the fall, and work on the Harrison Road project in the summer when students are out of school.

In response to Bill Bruesewitz's query of whether there will be detours, Elliott said while workers will try to keep one lane open, residents can expect there may be some detours during the construction.