Dear CABOL Friends, Supporters and Members:

No doubt you have been wondering what CABOL has been up to since the November 2003 announcement of TDOT’s intention to build the SR475 Knoxville Beltway Orange Route with possible design modifications developed through a context sensitive solutions (CSS) process.  While the decision to continue on with this project that was previously placed on hold was not unexpected, the inclusion of the CSS process forced a reevaluation of CABOL’s mission and strategic plan.  Concurrent with this reevaluation we also had to develop an understanding of the CSS process.  

The CSS process is a consensus-based method that actively interjects a broad range of stakeholders (e.g. government, business, residents, citizens interest groups) into the road design and construction process.   One of the goals of CSS is to minimize disruption to the community.  With the inclusion of CSS into TDOT’s Knoxville Beltway decision, CABOL was faced with a dilemma; how can we be a part of a process to minimize the impact of a road we were totally opposed to?   

We first evaluated the status of our opposition to the beltway.  With the November decision what changed relative to CABOL’s objections to the beltway?  Has the need for the beltway been analyzed to the extent that requirements to significantly reduce traffic congestion along the current Knoxville I-40/75 corridor developed?  Has the Orange Route specifically been shown to have a significant and achievable beneficial affect on this congestion?  Was an adequate decision-making process utilized in selecting the Orange Route?  Were the environmental impacts for noise pollution, air and water quality adequately assessed?   Was the impact of the Orange Route on undesirable sprawl in the region examined, were conflicts with current growth plans considered?  Is there a demonstrated economic need for the beltway?  Were other alternatives adequately addressed?

The answer to these as well as a litany of other questions to the beltway’s value remains a resounding no.  The much heralded but grossly inadequate “listening process” based assessment undertaken by the University of Tennessee Transportation Research Center only re-affirmed the baseless rationales supporting selection of the Orange Route dating back to the time of CABOL’s first organized opposition to the project in 1997.  Our reasons for opposing the beltway remain unchanged, thus our organization’s mission to oppose the Orange Route remains valid.  Unless there is full implementation of the CSS process that includes stakeholder agreement on the purpose and need of the beltway and alternative studies, there is no foreseeable change in our opposition.  

CABOL has however made a strategic decision to be a good faith participant in the CSS process as a community advocate to: 1) assure broad public involvement; 2) limit the influence of special interest groups vying to gain advantage from the Orange Route’s location; and 3) minimize community impacts.   Our participation in this process is only a hedge against the possibility that the road may eventually be constructed in spite of our continued best efforts to have the project assessed on the basis of needs, benefits and potential alternatives.     

As part of the CSS process TDOT has instructed the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization to develop a Resource Team to develop final alignment and design features for the Knoxville Beltway.  Over the past several months CABOL has worked to assure that special interest groups do not dominate this process and that the majority of its members are residents representing the communities adversely impacted by the Beltway’s construction.  Additionally, we have pushed for the inclusion of organizations dedicated to preserving or enhancing the environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic and natural resource values of these communities.  

We expect that the CSS Resource Team members will be announced this March.  The planned completion of the finalized design is 12-18 months after team establishment.  Preparation of a supplement to the draft environmental impact study originally issued January 2002 is slated 6 months later.  A final record of decision (ROD) is subsequently expected.  Opposing legal action can only be taken after issuance of the ROD.  

CABOL is presently defining a vision for the alternative alignment and design realized through the CSS process and as the final design progresses will develop specific requirements for inclusion.  The overall reality of the process being utilized by TDOT is that no mater what changes in the Orange Route are made to minimize its environmental impact, the need and benefits of the project remain dubious.  We continue to retain an environmental attorney Joe McCaleb with the full intention of taking legal action after the ROD is final.  Fundraising activities for this legal challenge will continue concurrent with the CSS process.  

CABOL will continually solicited input from our membership as our objectives and strategies shift with this new phase of opposition to the proposed Knoxville Beltway Orange Route.  Look for changes in our website, we are planning a membership information and status update meeting in the near future.  

CABOL remains on the job working hard in opposition to the proposed Knoxville Beltway Orange Route.  We continue to be well organized, focused and committed.  Your continued support is essential to our sustained opposition.       


Mark Richey
Citizens Against Beltway “O” Location