Northshore Improvements

Turn lane, bike lane, sidewalk from Pellissippi to Loudon line an estimated $67.5 million: Snowden

Well before Northshore Drive’s Friday afternoon peak of high traffic volume, John Schoonmaker, Fifth District Knox County Commissioner, made an observation after coming out to examine a specific stretch along Northshore Drive recently.

“It’s 3:45 (p.m.) and look how much traffic we’ve seen already,” he said.

With high traffic moving along narrow two-lane stretches with no, or very little, shoulder for much of a 15-mile stretch from Pellissippi Parkway west to the Loudon County line, plans for improvements have been mulled over by county officials for years.

To add a turn lane, bike lane and sidewalk over that span, Jim Snowden, senior director for Knox County Engineering & Public Works, estimated the coast “about $1.5 million per lane mile.” With three lanes sought for 15 miles, “That’s $67.5 million.”

However, Snowden added the county’s entire annual road construction budget “is, on average, about $13 million.”

Hearing from some of his constituents, Schoonmaker said, “They would like to see bike lanes and sidewalks,” adding if that were accomplished “you could connect all of the parks. … We’re trying to make it more walkable.”

However, based on “the number of the accidents it’s not considered that dangerous of a highway,” Schoonmaker added.

Another obstacle that would create much additional cost, he said, “is removing and repositioning all the utilities.”

Another possible complication, he said, was “east of the Concord-Northshore roundabout is the jurisdiction of TDOT, but from that roundabout to the Loudon County line, that’s Knox County’s.”

However, Schoonmaker said one advantage would be fewer complications concerning right-of-way acquisition.