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Corrections and update on next phase of Hwy 95 widening

There’s some favorable news on the turnpike widening project.

City Council members learned last evening that the project was not included as a stimulus project, but is instead expected to be funded in TDOT’s FY 2010 work plan. That reduces the urgency a bit and gives TDOT a chance to improve the design.

Also, Southwood residents who spoke at the City Council meeting got the Council’s and staff’s attention, and I expect that things will be  done to determine the extent of the impacts on that subdivision and look for ways to mitigate the effects.



  1. Ray Kircher says:

    The funds needed for that project may take longer than what TDOT expects.

    I think the I-40 Knoxville bypass Blue Route would take any expectations of the increase of Semi-Trucks using the rural highway 95. There may be many citizens in our city who wish to see our West End become the off-ramp for a super wide expectation of large trucks using Oak Ridge roads to get to Clinton. I hope TDOT can be persuaded to build Hwy 95 in relation to a Blue Route possibility, more passenger vehicles and less Semi-Trucks.

  2. Ellen Smith says:

    Don’t look for a Knoxville Interstate bypass any time soon, Ray. At a recent public meeting on regional transportation planning, future transportation projects were listed by the approximate time frame in which they could be built (5 years through 2014, 15 years through 2024, etc.). The Knoxville Bypass was listed in the 25-year time horizon. I expect that people’s ideas about how to configure a transportation system will change over the next 25 years, and the Bypass may never become a reality.

    Also, note that TDOT chose the Orange Route (through Hardin Valley in Knox County) instead of the Blue Route north and west of Oak Ridge.

  3. Ray Kircher says:

    I know about the bypass decisions, seems only the Orange route was shoved to us over the Blue Route, much the same as an extra wide Hwy 95. The extra width is to accomodate the amount of trucks needing to get to Clinton from I-40.

    I suppose thinking why we need the extra width won’t come about until the amount of trucks travelling Hwy 95 is revealed.

    I wonder what the Chamber of Commerce thinks about an extra wide Hwy 95, seems to me trucks is all they are about.

  4. Ellen Smith says:

    There has been a desire to convert this road to four lanes for at least as long as I’ve lived in Oak Ridge. I think that the need was actually greater back in the 1980s and 1990s than it is now because that road section had more traffic congestion back then.

    The main purpose of the project is to expand the road from 2 lanes to 4 lanes. The lanes would be normal width (12 ft). The 48-ft median that I’ve commented on would not increase the capacity for trucks. However, the current design eats up a lot of land, places the roadway extremely close to homes in the Southwood subdivision, and creates a highway that I think will be unfriendly to both pedestrians and bicyclists.

    City officials and the Chamber realize that this will increase truck traffic. Nobody likes that part of the project. However, the project is considered necessary to increase safety and avoid congestion. Also, it will help get water lines and other utilities extended out to Rarity Oaks, K-25, and Rarity Ridge. Those utility lines should eventually help with our utility rates, since it’s not efficient to continue running extra utility systems just to serve the far west area.

  5. Ray Kircher says:

    Rarity Ridge is provided service from another utility company? I remember seeing the cost of $30,000+ a year to provide water out there.

    To the median, it has nothing to do about utilities. The median is safety as TDOT is concerned. That stretch of road is being built this way due to a prediction more truck traffic is expected at the 55 MPH speed. The wide median reduces head on collisions.


  6. Ellen Smith says:

    I recall a few bad accidents in that section of Hwy 95 that would have been avoided (or at least would have been less bad) if there had been a median.

    The explanation that I have been given for making the median 48 feet wide has to do with drainage. Basically, the proposed median would serve as a very wide drainage ditch — with a very gentle slope from the roadway to the bottom of the ditch.

  7. Ray Evans says:

    The Oak Ridge Turnpike has a lower than average percent of truck traffic as compared to similar roadways. It is my professional opinion, as one who has been a traffic engineer for 36 years, that the completion of the widening of SR 95 will have little effect on that percentage.

    This project has been in the works for over thirty years. I’ve had two TDOT Commissioners tell me that the road widening would have occurred long ago if Oak Ridgers could simply make up their minds.

    I do agree that the narrower urban section tends to make much more sense considering Southwood, Rarity Oaks and the Horizon Center.

  8. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Evans, I respect your opinion of no change in traffic flows, yet TDOT’s 25 year forecast has other models that differ from yours. I agree with you that Hwy 95 needs not to be more than what connects it to I-40, Hwy 58, for this road is more traveled, according to Advanced Traffic Data & Analysis Management (ADAM). There isn’t any sense to build the proposed section safer than what connects to it.

    Can you provide the amount of trucks traveled for the area you described, and the amount of trucks traveled on the proposed improvement area to Hwy 95? The surrounding areas of Oak Ridge is also what I am looking at, so the growth of Anderson, Roane, Loudon, Morgan, Scott, and Campbell counties will increase or decrease the amount of truck traffic through Oak Ridge; in addition to what is already happening in traffic from our east.

    A very unique land designation to our west is the Scenic Obed River making very interesting talk about State and Federal Hwys. One very possible future, when forecasted job growth models show Morgan County as our second fastest growth in the region, is to connect I-40 on the west side of this river past the entrance to Frozen Head State Park to I-75 on the North Side of Clinton in Lake City, addressing a very efficient improvement to connecting the two most traveled roads in E. Tennessee in yet another location.

    The Scenic Obed River is a major accomplishment for our area. Hwy 62, Hwy 61, and Hwy 330 all at the entrance area to Windrock Road is matched by the use of roads on the east end of Oak Ridge. Yet this city hasn’t recognized the use of our southwest portion of the county. In the future, can trucks share the same roads with local drivers? There is a viable answer there to allow truck traffic an all around better route from Oak Ridge to I-75 and Clinton to I-40. If TDOT does build what they have proposed for Hwy 95, and if Anderson County growth models are correct, the route of trucks, visitors, and locals will be traveling more through Oak Ridge to get to jobs, stores, and family members. Can the Oak Ridge Turnpike become another Interstate? In the future, these current TDOT plans does not rule it out. First, Tennessee Ave. was the main route, then the Oak Ridge Turnpike, next could be I-475 through Oak Ridge and Clinton. It happened to Knoxville, just look at the cost and time involved there, and it still hasn‘t helped, too little too late. I hope the SmartFix will have better results for that city. Can Oak Ridge really afford to look at that direction?

    As an Oak Ridge citizen, I feel we need to be protected from TDOT. In my opinion, it isn’t we cannot decide, Mr. Evans, just that we feel better served with another plan. It may not be said, but Anderson County really needs to address their lack of effort to give the City of Oak Ridge better access to I-75 and the City of Clinton better access to I-40.

  9. LEROY GILLIAM says:


  10. Ray Evans says:


    I don’t see the Tuskegee extension to the Turnpike anytime in the foreseeable future. Little if anything to justify the expense. Tuskegee currently operates at a very high level of service. Even at full build out, the housing projects recently completed and under construction will do little to lower the service level appreciatively.

  11. Ellen Smith says:

    Years ago I was looking forward to having the Tuskegee “extension” converted from a gravel road to a paved street, but I’ve given up waiting. It would be nice for us west side residents to have an alternative to the Illinois-Turnpike intersection. If Tuskegee were built, I’d probably use it frequently — to travel from West Oak Ridge to places like the City Services Center and the grocery store. Of course, that’s probably exactly what Leroy is dreading…

  12. Ray Kircher says:

    I don’t think the delay is what Leroy is wanting, maybe the delay allows certain developers to purchase property along the road. The Hallmark apartments is crowded to the road and if an expansion is needed, the Scarboro community will lose Houston Ave due to the placement of the apartments. Tuskegee would be more traveled when the connection is made, and more of old Oak Ridge will erode.

    It looks like the planning of Oak Ridge is what keeps Oak Ridge from attracting more residents.

  13. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    Thank you!! Ray all of a sudden the Warehouse is sold along Tuskegee.
    Prime piece property by extending Hallmark all the way to the curb it assures that land in the Scarboro neighborhood will be taken for roadway. Erosion of neighborhoods. Very poor planning practice but who cares it happens all the because its all about business in Oak Ridge, Tn

    I vam not talking about delays. Since the planning commission was not smart enough to force the Traffic to Clarks Preserve to access somewhere besides Burnham Woods…This is whast called traffic dumping, It literally destroyed what was a peaceful neighborhood. Planners do not factor in
    neighboors. They only want to push progress at the expense of communities.

    That just like the lack of a buffer zone behind Terri Lane most of the trees where cut down opening the back houses were there is no privacy.

    They left a steep sloped embankment for easy access. Good planning!! I like the open water retain pond next to the road nice attraction for mosquitos within 300 ft of people and we are afraid of Swine Flu. Some of my neighbors were all about Neighborhood Watch by sitting in their yards while they were slapping the mosquitos.

    Enough said !!!! What a Joke!!

  14. Anne Garcia Garland says:

    I am puzzled by what looks like a lack of awareness by City Council of TDOT intentions for the extended widening of 95. Did we not anticipate the road being widened when the Southwood development was approved? How did we let someone plan homes so up against what would be the path for the highway? Does TDOT not share information? A quarter of the development will be adversely affected, most of them to the severe detriment of their home values and quality of life. Unless there are factors of which I am not aware, we, the city, owe it to those homeowners to require that the road extension be redesigned to minimize the impact on their neighborhood. Could the power towers be relocated so that land north of 95 could be used?

  15. Ray Kircher says:

    I do not believe it is a lack of awareness. The urge to raise revenue by our city council is the culprit. Future planning and the thought of citizens already living in Oak Ridge is rarely considered when a developer builds in Oak Ridge. Many policies, regulations, and zoning is changed to fit the city’s need for more taxes; then progress done by the city, state, or federal governments has to work with what was not thought of by previous council members, city managers, and mayors. Greed and not quality of life is what appears to be the main motive of city council actions.

    It is a common idea among many officials to not worry about what happens after they leave office, as long as they have what they want today.

  16. Ellen Smith says:

    I believe that the city staff was aware that Hwy 95 would eventually be widened back when the Southwood subdivision was approved, but the staff likely did not anticipate the magnitude of the project.

    I would prefer to defer this widening project in order to redesign it, but there is pressure to move forward in order to facilitate development of the “west end.”

  17. Ray Kircher says:


    This issue may just lie with the residents affected and TDOT. That makes sound barriers a quicker judgment and funding process, and I believe the course those citizens should take. If applied for, the feds can fund sound barrier walls if the project fits their type, but part of the cost may come back to Oak Ridge citizens. I would like to see council move forward with a sound barrier solution than to stall the road widening.

    With the feds pumping stimulus money into projects like this, sound barriers are safer and will retain the property values of those home owners, a cost that will pay back and utilize a future of more homes. It is very difficult to sell a home while standing inside with a realtor you cannot hear when you open the windows.

    With the cost and installation issue at hand, there are many materials that can be used to construct sound barriers. What do we install there? Maybe now council will pay attention to the future while deciding these projects.

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