Traffic, Cumberland, and Walmart

We had this quick piece today on what some of the traffic experts thought about the upcoming project at the former Fulton Bellows site.

As the saying goes, when you ask the watchmaker the time …

So the good scholars at UT and planners with advanced degrees had far more to say than we had ink for today. Thank God (or Al Gore?) for the Internets. Let’s dump out this notebook, shall we?

Conclusions from a traffic study on the expected impact of added trips around University Commons. And being the swell guy he his, Knoxville Regional TPO transportation engineer Nathan Benditz typed up the last few lines that didn’t make it into the PDF:

the Joe Johnson Drive approach was found to be more practical and would be sufficient to mitigate the proposed development’s impacts.

With the recommendations of this report, the traffic impact can be minimized and should maintain the acceptable traffic conditions.”

He noted that the 2011 traffic count for the Joe Johnson Drive Bridge was 5,414 vehicles per day.

But unused roads nearby could handle more traffic. The road diet on The Strip is expected to divert traffic headed downtown into other areas, such as Neyland or Western. Here’s what Megan Ryerson had to say:

There are many other ways to access downtown … Neyland, the highway, numerous other facilities … Cumberland doesn’t have to be the through road.

Then she explained the complexities of human nature and traffic in a few sentences. Which may be a window into how people could react once Cumberland is narrowed and the Walmart/Publix opens:

We – very, very simply – say, ‘What’s the cost of the trip in terms of dollars, and what’s the cost of the trip in terms of time?’

… and when you have a road diet, there comes a tipping point when using another roadway or another road becomes cheaper.

And really, how many of you out there jog over to Sutherland in order to avoid Kingston during certain hours? Or Western to avoid The Strip? From Ryerson:

If I’m in west Knoxville and I’m going to go downtown, I make a choice of routes, whether to go straight to Kingston, to Cumberland?

How doe we make that choice? And we say that, assuming we don’t need to stop at CVS or Walmart, as time goes up, more and more people are going to choose the highway …

in the long term, and the price of road travel goes u – which it does because of the time goes up, and the costs go up – people may refer to alternative modes.

… or may decide to walk, if they are close enough nearby.

And back to the narrowing of Cumberland and the Walmart/Publix:

When you have road diet in conjunction with this new facility – it’s going to be a major attractor.

But the two happening at once is a good thing, because people won’t get used to one thing (say, a narrower Cumberland) and then deal with a whole ‘nother issue (added traffic from the development). The idea, it appears, is that all this stuff happens at once. To tear it down, it seems, just to build it back again. Ryerson, again:

… this way we don’t put in a facility (a development) and, three/five years down the road, reduce the access (narrow Cumberland).

… instead, it happens at once (and personally, this is what I appreciate about traffic engineers, who probably understand more about humans that most people give them credit for having) …

… this is the new facility, this is the new Cumberland. In general, in transportation – and this is true of all modes of transportation, and probably in life – taking something away is always bad.

She ended up on the points about increased traffic potentially being an issue, and having plenty of space where cars can go. Also to get ahead of any problems before they happen.


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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