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Commission discusses ‘complete streets’

Farragut Municipal Planning Commission members attended a training session on “complete streets” at its meeting, Thursday, Jan. 15.

The complete streets program, adopted by the state of Tennessee and being implemented around Knox County, encourages developers and planners to build streets that accommodate all users.

Complete streets include space for automobiles, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit, and create a network of these alternate modes of transportation.

“In essence, that’s really what we’re doing in this community,” Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said, specifically mentioning the “pedestrian friendly” Downtown Farragut development.

“The idea here is to give different ranges of travel, so people have different options than just the automobile,” she added.

Hawk cited statistics that, in metro areas, 50 percent of all trips are three miles or less; 28 percent are one mile or less. Of those one-mile trips, 65 percent are made by car.

Complete streets, those that promote pedestrian travel, would change the statistics.

Hawk asked Commissioners why they preferred to drive rather than walk or bike.

“You have to cross Kingston Pike,” Commissioner Carol Evans said.

“Yes. Right there, you see.” Hawk said.

Complete streets include wider-than-minimal sidewalks or walking trails, as well as room for bike trails and green space, including buffers and islands.

In communities with transit travel, of which Hawk did not include Farragut, complete streets also include safe and convenient bus pull-ins, so buses do not disrupt traffic.

Cumberland Avenue is one local street that will be seeing a “complete street” makeover. It will be restructured to three lanes instead of four, with more pedestrian and transit access.

Complete streets also change the design of roads in capacity versus speed.

“You should design roads for appropriate operating speeds,” Hawk said.

In other words, road design should accommodate the maximum speed, not the minimum. The road should allow motorists to travel only as fast as the maximum recommended speed.

Smart design, Hawk said, is all about “conservation of space.” The right-of-way can be used for other modes of transportation and can be smartly done to allow maximum use.

“Minimum width sidewalks are unacceptable,” Hawk said, also mentioning the “cons” of sidewalks that directly abut a road, something Farragut allows.

“That’s something we need to look at,” Hawk said, mentioning the uncomfortable feeling pedestrians often have when sidewalks abut roads.

Hawk said the complete streets program would not necessarily mean roads would have to be reconstructed; just that commissioners needed to be aware of the program when they approved road and walkway designs.

“Just because a road doesn’t have something special, doesn’t mean it’s not a complete street if traffic volumes and widths are such that you can still be safe,” Hawk said.

Most of Farragut’s residential streets, for example, are wide enough to accommodate bikers and cars without designated bike lanes.

“It doesn’t have to be overall construction … work with what you have,” Hawk said.

“We have a lot in place right now that’s right,” she added.

Tennessee is one of seven states across the nation that participate in the complete streets program.

“Tennessee ought to be proud of that because we actually are making great strides with incorporating this in our newer road construction projects,” Hawk said.

For more information, visit Knoxville Transportation Planning Organization’s Web site at


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