KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research is reviewing 15 top road projects for the Tennessee Department of Transportation in an effort to resolve controversies and problems.
Center Director Steve Richards said a five-person senior level task force including members of various UT departments, such as the College of Engineering, would lead the review.
“We’re going take an in depth look at each on of these project but focus in on those issues which are controversial, still at question, or still raise debate,” Richards said. “We’re not going to go back and revisit every issue in each project that is simply impossible, but it is my understand that the people or groups or local officials who raised the questions are being asked to try to get a better definition of what the concerns are.
“We’re going to take those concerns and then delve deeply into the issues involved and basically look at the process, see if the proper steps were taken along the planning and development process, the public hearing process, and if the decisions that were made were consistent with the process and the outcome of the process.”
Richards said the review would attempt to focus on each project’s basis for controversy, such as environmental impact, public involvement, economic analysis, and other issues.
“A lot of (the projects) involve environmental concerns; a lot of them involved the route selection. There are issues about the process itself: ‘Was there adequate opportunity for public input in the planning and development process?’ There’s a wide range of issues.”
While the team cannot cancel any project, it will offer recommendations and advice to help TDOT resolve existing issues and prevent problems in the future, Richards said.
“We won’t necessarily be saying yea or nay on any particular project,” Richards said, “but we will present findings and recommendations concerning additional work, additional public input and private input, and ask ‘Do they need to back up and take another look at things?'”
The TDOT project being reviewed by UT represents more than $2 billion in roadwork.
Richards said the target date for completion of the study is June.