Provide a safe, attractive, and accessible network of mobility by improving vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
The system of transportation within Oak Ridge involves the operation and maintenance of infrastructure that supports the movement of cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, as well as a portion of the regional system of mass transit, freight trucking, trains, aviation, and water transport. Safety and quality of traffic flow are important factors for each transportation project in the city. Mobility takes into consideration the users of transportation, such as their activities and lifestyle characteristics, which can help to reveal inefficiencies and inequities so that the system can be improved.
The Oak Ridge Traffic Safety Advisory Board (TSAB) assists the Public Works Department and City Council on local transportation decisions. System management requires coordination with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) on major roadways owned and maintained by the state, and the Knoxville Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) for regional planning, support, and funding of major projects.
One of the benefits of being a planned city is that the overall street system works reasonably well. The arterials, Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue (State Route 62), carry large volumes of traffic safely and with little congestion, except at peak hours in some locations. Congestion occurs during the evening rush hour at key points exiting the city. Additionally, the SOM 2030 report notes that better circulation and redevelopment are hindered by super-blocks in the City Center. New cross streets are recommended to increase connectivity.
The most dangerous and congested area is the Solway segment of the Pellissippi Parkway, outside the City of Oak Ridge. The Oak Ridgers who experience the most consistent congestion are people who work in Oak Ridge but commute from outside the city. The long term solution to this problem is for more Oak Ridge workers to live in Oak Ridge or for the development of a regional transit service that reduces the number of vehicles on roadways.
Citywide and regional transportation will be impacted by a general aviation airport that is proposed to be constructed at Heritage Center (East Tennessee Technology Park). Plans call for a 5,000-foot runway, a partial parallel taxiway and about 40 hangars on 171 acres. The total cost of the project is estimated to run from $47-55 million and will be managed by the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. Pending approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress, the project could break ground sometime in 2021.
The focus of the transportation element in this plan is on safety and connectivity, the linkages between different modes of travel and the linking of different pieces of the system with each other.
A good example of this is the proposed Rails to Trails project, converting the old CSX railway track into a paved pedestrian and bike trail that will run a significant distance through the heart of the city. The Plan not only recommends the completion of that project but also the creation of links to other trails, such as the North Ridge Trail from Melton Hill Lake Park, a link to Main Street with a street route through the Woodland neighborhood, and a link at the south providing potential for use of the DOEN Patrol Road. Trail use of that road would open up the potential for Scarboro, Grove Park Commons and Burnham Woods to be tied in to the trail system.
The network of connectivity should include walkable districts, such as a city center and neighborhood centers, which require a framework of local streets and sidewalks. Smaller block size and increased street frontage can provide better pedestrian access to shopping, parks and trails, and neighborhoods.
The following list of ideas and recommended actions are intended to improve the transportation network, including vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle modes, to provide safe and efficient access for people in Oak Ridge.
- Evaluate and amend, as needed, the Standard Construction Requirements and Details Manual with regard to Complete Street design, or a safe combination of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian use.
- Improve the network of street connectivity to provide better access and traffic circulation, and to promote efficient land development. Prepare a Major Road and Street Plan, to include:
- New roads and intersections in the city center to create walkable blocks
- Connector streets between existing neighborhoods on Edgemoor Rd and Melton Lake Rd to alleviate single access issues
- Potential conversion of the perimeter road by Y-12 into a public east-west connector from Scarboro Rd to Gum Hollow Rd
- Identification of freight transport routes, which may increase due to a new airport or industrial rail activity
- Actively participate in the regional TPO and provide oversight on TDOT projects that impact Oak Ridge, such as the proposed widening of Edgemoor Road and safety/congestion issues on State Route 62 in Solway, based on local land use and transportation plans and studies.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility
- Enhance Wilson Street between Tulane and Rutgers Avenues with an emphasis on bike lanes and sidewalks with space for pedestrian amenities such as outdoor dining and public art. Walkability and interesting spaces will support a more compact mix of uses and lead to a distinct city center for Oak Ridge.
- Work with other agencies and major employers to expand regional public transit, add local circulator routes and park and rides, and support commuter carpool and rideshare programs such as Smart Trips. Circulator routes could connect major employment locations and the city center, for example, and along the same route provide more transportation options for seniors and others choosing not to drive.
- Ensure that new development contributes towards a walkable environment through the permit review process. Incentivize voluntary improvement to existing development in order to maximize connectivity throughout the city.
- Update the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan with a new implementation plan to steadily improve the network and to ensure that appropriate infrastructure is added or improved with new street connections. Consider a local network of shared bike rental stations.
- Develop a prioritization program for improving and adding public sidewalks and crosswalks with pedestrian safety features throughout the City.
- Evaluate and amend, as needed, the Zoning Ordinance regarding off-street parking requirements.
- Improve the process to address immediate transportation safety concerns, which include roadway pavement repair, monitoring speeds in residential areas, repainting or marking existing crosswalks, and fixing sidewalks in disrepair. Communicate to citizens a maintenance
- Schedule or provide updates that list known outstanding issues and estimated completion or delays.
- Assess citywide roadway operations to identify areas to improve safety for cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Evaluate traffic volume and characteristics for opportunities to implement Complete Street design, a design approach that enables safe street access to all users, by all means of transport (foot, bicycle, car, bus). Current and proposed studies include:
- Reconstruct the multiple street intersection at Pennsylvania Ave, Providence Rd, and N Tulane Ave, with consideration of a roundabout
- Explore reducing various streets to two vehicle lanes with added bicycle lanes
- Redesign S Tulane Avenue to slow traffic and improve pedestrian opportunities
- Ensure the design of Edgemoor Rd includes safe pedestrian and bicycle connections
- Partner with UT Engineering students to put together a low-cost Tactical Urbanism project that demonstrates creative transportation safety.
- Begin to plan for autonomous vehicles. The US DOT advises local governments to partner with suppliers to test AVs on local streets and enable safe deployment, to plan for more curb space for pick-up and drop-off activities as well as less parking requirements, and to plan for the potential of increased congestion.
“Road Diet” diagram courtesy of PlanET. A road diet reduces the width of a roadway to allow for additional amenities like parking, bike lanes, and sidewalks. These amenities increase safety and promote use of roadways by pedestrians and cyclists.
big idea: Gateways
Visitors to Oak Ridge, traveling inbound on State Route 62 (South Illinois Avenue), are left wondering, ‘Where is Oak Ridge?’ as they drive in from the southeast. Motorists travel several miles after crossing the Clinch River before seeing indication of anything except the major federal facilities. A 2017 design study commissioned by the Oak Ridge Lunch Rotary Club and conducted by the East Tennessee Community Design Center, illustrates a series of powerful ideas for how gateway installations could be built to mark and celebrate arrival to the City of Oak Ridge. Three separate projects spotlight major benchmarks along the visitor’s path to the city center. These include the median of the Hwy 62/Bethel Valley Road split, the entrance to the UT Arboretum, and the grand portal – a creative overhead feature celebrating arrival, attached to the Centrifuge Way overpass.