Washington Pike, Larsen Jay and Dear Bill Lee

Sandra ClarkNortheast Knox, Opinion

Other columnists pick a topic, do some research, talk to a few sources and then write. It comes to you neatly packaged with a beginning, a middle and an end.

Let’s start with my original idea.

When the county mayor, the superintendent of schools and 9 of 9 school board members wrote to Gov. Bill Lee (BOE to Gov) asking for permission to play football even though school itself was closed for Covid, what did the governor respond?

Bill Lee’s probable reaction

First, I tried to phone the governor’s press secretary. If Lee’s got one, I can’t find out who or how to reach them. I did find a directory of state employees. Typed in Bill Lee and was told no one by that name works for the state. OK.

Next, I texted a school board member. “I think the answer was no,” she said. I searched for free art to illustrate “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and found the picture at left.

Larsen Jay put his job, family and Knox County Commission responsibilities on hold Tuesday to fulfill a boyhood dream. He drove in the Tennessee Valley Fair’s Demolition Derby.

Jay sold stickers on his car to raise money for the nonprofit Smoky Mountain Service Dogs. When the smoke cleared, so to speak, he had raised $6,100.

“I had no injuries but am a little sore,” he said the next day. “I didn’t last the whole race. My fuel pump broke and after a few good hits, I was a sitting duck.”

Will he ever do this again?

“Maybe … Boy, was that fun!”

Washington Pike is set to get a $17 million facelift – a city of Knoxville project starting near the Target business complex and ending at Murphy Road.

Officials including Harold Cannon, city engineering director, will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at New Harvest Park. Pandemic safety protocols will be observed.

Read our earlier story here. This project has winners and losers. It will make the road safer for sure and will install two 10-foot pedestrian/bike trails that tie into greenways. It will make farmland in East Knox County more attractive to subdivision developers by breaking up the traffic bottleneck before I-640.

The losers will be residents along Washington Pike, particularly those in the Oak Grove area, who will lose their front yards to right-of-way acquisition. It’s urban renewal all over again, only this time out in the burbs.

Drive this route. Read the description below. Then show up next Wednesday to voice your opinion.

From the city’s press release: “Washington Pike would remain five lanes on the western end of the project area, where Greenway Drive ties in near the Target store. The pike would narrow to three lanes by New Harvest Lane, then expand back to five lanes, including a turn lane, at Steeple Shadow Way and Babelay Road and continue on in that configuration to the city limits at Murphy Road. There, turn lanes would carry traffic onto Murphy or Pullman roads, and Washington Pike to the east would continue in its current two lanes.

“Once the plan is finalized and right-of-way acquired, work would begin in early 2024. The city’s goal is to have the project completed by the end of 2026 or mid-2027.”

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.


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