Hagerman wraps up city career, sets bike adventure

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk, South Knox

Jim Hagerman is retiring as the city’s engineering director, but he already knows what’s next.

“I’ve been staring at the maps,” says Hagerman. He plans a cross-country bicycle trip.

“It’s official. My last day at the city is March 27 and the retirement reception is 3 p.m. in room 549 (City County Building),” he posted. “All are welcome.”

Hagerman was appointed to the post by Mayor Madeline Rogero, and his tenure matched her two terms. As engineering director, he managed a department of 90 people with a $27 million budget. The department is responsible for stormwater quantity and quality, traffic signs, signals, street markings and right-of-way civil construction projects.

Prior to his city post, he was an environmental engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority for 22 years. As a water resources engineer, he focused on nonpoint source pollution modeling, strategies and engineering design for mitigation; stream restoration design and construction; project management; preparation of NEPA analyses and documents; and process design and documentation.

Hagerman holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Oregon State University and a master’s from Cornell. He is a licensed professional engineer in Tennessee.

Hagerman has been known for bicycling to work from his home in South Knoxville. He was a board member and chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee to TPO for 12 years prior to joining the city administration. He also was a board member and chair of Three Rivers Market for seven years, including the food co-operative’s expansion and new construction on North Central.

Has he ever biked this far? No, but he draws a parallel with hiking the Appalachian Trail. “There’s a secret bike infrastructure,” he says with a smile. And sure enough, there are maps for a northern and a southern route. There’s the TransAmerica Trail celebrated in the 1976 “bikecentennial.” Along these routes, there are vendors offering shelter, supplies and general comfort.

And Jim says it’s not like you’re biking alone – even when you are by yourself. Like on the AT, bikers meet others and bike with them for a while. Bikers explore backroads and small towns but never, never the interstate.

On his way out the door, we had a couple of policy questions:

How sturdy is Knoxville’s infrastructure?

Basically, we’re in good shape, says Hagerman, especially in terms of bridges and roads. The (stormwater) drainage system is sometimes not noticed until something fails. And there’s a growing risk of failure with the older steel pipes. KUB is doing a good job of updating.

How can we fund sidewalks and bike routes?

There’s lots of demand for new sidewalks. Our rule of thumb is it costs $350/foot. Bike lanes require making more room on narrow roads. Ultimately, it depends on how much citizens want and are willing to pay for. In the last eight years, the city has done more than before, but we’ve barely moved the needle. We have put a priority on routes that link together.

Hagerman said a citywide strategic plan for sidewalks is being developed and should be released soon.

He plans to blog during his bicycle adventure and promised to send us a link so we can inform readers.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.


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