It’s probably not zebras

Dan ArpPowell

Several years ago, I met a man named Jim Hill, plant manager of DuPont Chattanooga. Heard him speak at the Chattanooga Manufacturers Association and then later got him to give me a plant tour. During the tour he greeted every employee he encountered by name. Come to find out he knew the names of all 2,000 employees. Speaks volumes about him.

Jim had many sayings. The one that stuck with me is, “if you hear hoofbeats, it’s probably not zebras. It’s likely horses.” Go for the simple fix first.

By way of illustration, he told me a story about a problem they were having in the production facility. It seems they were plagued with constant fiber breakage. The engineering staff went into high gear. After some time, it was determined that the process water they were using had too much iron in it. The solution was to truck iron-free water from North Carolina. Problem solved. No more fiber breakage.

One day an engineer was on the floor. He commented to the machine operator about the success. The operator said, “Well, that was one way to fix it. The other way would have been to open that valve and close that one over there.”

The indignant engineer said, “Why didn’t you say something?’ The operator replied, “No one asked me plus it was fun watching you guys run around in circles.”

Nothing against engineers. However, many times if you don’t have a title you don’t count, nor does your opinion.

A year ago, I was sitting in the right-hand lane on Emory Road at I-75 waiting to turn onto I-75 South towards Knoxville. Even though there were no cars coming west from Halls, the cars in front of me prohibited me, and the cars behind me, from turning. There is no turn designation in any lane going east.

It dawned on me that there is plenty of room to add a third lane going east at that location and designate the right lane as right turn only. Pretty slam dunk for a paint crew.

This seemed a good enough idea to run it by those in charge of the roads, so I made the appropriate phone calls. The answer received was that this seemed to be a viable option. Two weeks later I called again and heard the encouraging news that my idea was in the queue as a project. The project was slated for spring, but spring came and went, and the lanes remained the same.

More phone calls received the answer that other things were more pressing. I understand that road projects involve more than meets the eye and cost quite a bit of money, but this doesn’t seem to be much consolation for those daily stuck in this bottleneck.

Adding a lane at the Emory Road exit off I-75 North would not completely alleviate the congestion problem at that intersection, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if input from those driving these roads might be considered? Those who are stuck in traffic day after day undoubtedly consider ideas and solutions that could produce viable, less expensive solutions than those who are in charge of the whole of Knox County and who possibly are not as familiar with the situation. It’s worth a thought. After all, one seldom sees zebras around Emory Road.

Dan Arp is retired and lives in Heiskell.


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