Light rail to Knox is too logical to be seriously considered
Without even considering the higher cost of building more and wider highways between Maryville-Alcoa and Knoxville, a Times reader has issued a call for consideration of light rail passenger service between the airport area and downtown Knoxville.
Gary Wynn of Morganton Road noted that traffic on Alcoa Highway dropped from a peak of 63,200 cars per day just south of Sherwood Memorial Gardens in 2006 to 52,746 per day in 2008.
That is a decline of 10,454 vehicles per day.
This occurred at the same time that vehicle traffic on most of the state’s highways declined because of increased gasoline prices and the downturn in the economy.
Wynn pointed out that while the spur to the West Plant has been removed, the Norfolk-Southern spur from the South Plant to Knoxville could be easily accessed. By extending an access above or under Alcoa Highway to McGhee Tyson Airport it would be much more practical for travelers to use a light rail system.
While it might be physically easier to use the CSX (former L&N) access to the airport, that would mean using its main line to Knoxville which would not likely win approval. If the Norfolk and Southern line from Maryville through Alcoa could be accessed for light rail (passenger) service it might more likely be accepted by the railroad since its line to Knoxville is a branch line.
Any parent with a student commuting to UT would welcome the much less expensive means of transportation. And we suspect many of the students would appreciate it, considering the steadily increasing higher education tuition in Tennessee.
We are aware that generally speaking, railroads don’t like to operate light rail transportation nor be bothered with other use of their tracks. However, a self-supporting transportation authority could be established to operate the facility once it was in place.
As the public should know, the cost of transportation on the train’s steel wheels is much cheaper than rubber tires on our highways. But the wear and tear and expansion of our highways is continuing to increase due to demand and a lack of more cost-effective alternatives.
We think Wynn’s is a good idea. Once railroad beds are lost, they are never likely to be recovered for that use. We realize that such a simple, practical solution is not likely to be adequately considered. Too many think everything new has to be high tech and high priced until we begin paying for it. Enough money is being spent on development of the old West Plant area to warrant due consideration of light rail for passenger traffic.