In a word, the project to extend Schaad Road is complicated.
It’s part of the Northwest Connector construction which kicked off about 21 years ago with a modest beginning, improving Pleasant Ridge Road between I-640 and Clinton Highway. When completed, the connector will make it easier to travel between north and west Knox County, allowing traffic to bypass the interstate completely.
Extending Schaad Road is a major piece of the job. At a cost of about $45 million, it also represents the lion’s share of the $75 million connector project, which includes – at present – $14.3 million picked up by TDOT for construction on and around Lovell Road.
Brad Warren is chief operations engineer for the county’s engineering and public works department. “We’re biting it off in chunks,” Warren says of the elephantine project.
The “chunks” consist of four phases. Phases II and III take the extension from Middlebrook Pike to Ball Road to the Glen Lake subdivision. Phase IV covers Pleasant Ridge Road to Oak Ridge Highway. Warren says right-of-way design is underway for this phase and permits remain to be let.
Oddly, Phase I comes last. This phase is the widening of Lovell Road by TDOT. (We’ll blame the sequence on the state.)
Plans to complete Phases II and III beginning this summer struck a hitch when it became necessary to relocate a stream, a task not included in the initial timetable. Now, construction should begin this fall with an expected duration of three years.
New regulations that change the method of acquiring right-of-way have also come into play. Where once granting of an easement by the property owner was sufficient, now the county must make a fee simple purchase of the tracts. (The cynic might say this means TDEC or the Corps of Engineers has only one entity to go after when a hillside tumbles into a stream or wetlands are fouled.)
Phase I and Phase IV are at the NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) permitting stage. It’s fair to say meeting regulatory requirements has caused delays leading to public frustration over completing the Schaad extension.
Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for KnoxTNToday.
For a comprehensive look at the connector project click here: Northwest Connector.