By Ben Lawson
As the amount of school traffic increases year after year, parents and school officials remain divided on what, if anything, needs to be done with Boyd’s Creek to alleviate the burden.
Ultimately, the decision lies with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, a fact cited by the county commissioners as why the situation has not been addressed.
However, there does exist a route which cuts through the bureaucracy and is designed to allow local government to directly work with TDOT during its decision making process.
In 2005, TDOT set up a system of Rural Planning Organizations in order to facilitate local consultation for its transportation projects. Each RPO consists of an executive board and a technical committee, made up of city or county officials most knowledgeable about transportation needs.
The system functions as a basic process, according to Don Brown, coordinator for the East Tennessee South RPO. A local official must identify a particular transportation need, which will then be assessed. The RPO board then meets at the beginning of each year to prioritize which projects to recommend to TDOT.
“TDOT doesn’t always follow the RPO’s recommendations,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters, who sits on the South RPO executive board. He indicated that there was uncertainty regarding the status of the RPO under new TDOT commissioner John Schroer.
The current 3 Year Work Program recommended by the South RPO does not include any projects for Boyd’s Creek, according to TDOT. Waters, who did not attend the RPO meeting in January, was unsure if there had been prior discussion of the Boyd’s Creek and Pitner Road intersection.
According to TDOT, that intersection was not reviewed when the state looked into the need for a red light at the Old Sevierville Pike intersection, a project that ultimately cost an estimated $1.2 million.
Sevier County Road Superintendent Jonas Smelcer, who sits on the RPO technical committee, could not be reached for comment.
Brown indicated that the needs assessment for Boyd’s Creek could be coordinated between him and a local official, in this case Waters. He was not familiar with any instances of an unscheduled RPO meeting being called over one item, but the assessment would be addressed at the following annual meeting.
The Sevier County commissioners whose districts cover Boyd’s Creek were intrigued by the RPO process. Harold Pitner, 6th District, said he would normally take any such suggestions to the state representative, but would gladly use a faster route.
“It would have made more sense if they would have put the new red light at Pitner Road,” he said, and indicated that he would speak to Waters about it.
Jim Keener, 10th District, said he would love to see the Pitner intersection worked on. He also expressed a desire to sit in on an RPO meeting to see what is being discussed.
“I’d love to talk to Larry Waters about it,” he said.
Although the RPO’s current recommendations for 2012-2014 have already been made, Waters believed the plan could be adjusted.
“If there was a recommendation from the commissioners, it would not only need to go to the RPO, but to TDOT as well,” he said.
Traffic Not Insurmountable
By Ben Lawson