New Highway 127 Design Proposes 3 Lanes, Not 5

By Jacob E. Rosenbaum

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) held a public meeting discussing the Highway 127 improvement project on Thursday, February 15 at South Fentress Elementary School. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current proposed design of the 127 improvements, to explain the De Minimis determination regarding South Fentress Park, and to receive public input from citizens regarding the project as a whole. Several members of the public were in attendance. Over twenty representatives from TDOT were on hand to deliver presentations and answer any questions posed by concerned citizens.

The meeting began at 5 p.m. with an informal viewing of the visual displays. Citizens were able to interact with TDOT personnel and inquire about specific questions regarding right-of-way acquisitions, projected time frame of completion, and the proposed design itself.

At 5:30 Mr. Wes Hughen, TDOT Director of Project Development, began the presentation. Mr. Hughen welcomed everyone and thanked them for attending and laid out the purpose and goals of the meeting.

“The reason we are here tonight is to answer any questions you have concerning this project, but more importantly we are here to listen to you and take your feedback regarding what you want in this project. We are looking to start this process as soon as possible, as soon as we can get through the right-of-way process and get it out for bidding we hope to begin.”

Mr. Hughen then turned the presentation over to Ms. Meridith Krebs of TDOT’s environmental division, who gave a short presentation explaining the proposed Section 4(f) De Minimis Determination regarding the environmental impact of the proposed highway expansion on South Fentress Park. In describing the portion of park area that would be taken for right of way Ms. Krebs called it a “sliver.”

“Ultimately this is going to remove about a half acre from the park, mostly from the parking section next to the highway. We have done several assessments, and we believe that this will have minimal impact on the park. It will always be accessible, even while being worked on, and the public will be able to continue to use it in the same way they do now.” said Krebs.

A De Minimis determination is a request that can be made during an environmental assessment which simply states that the impact of the proposed project will be too minor or trivial to merit consideration.

Moving on to the design presentation, Mr. Brian Gaffney, of Benesch Consulting Engineers, took the podium and briefly detailed the current proposed design for the highway improvements; that being a three lane highway consisting of two 12 foot travel lanes, and a 12 foot center turn lane with one northbound passing section and one southbound passing section within the approximate 8.6 mile stretch of improved highway, 8 foot shoulders and roadside ditches.

Read the rest of the story in this weeks Fentress Courier.