His Friends Corridor K
© Copyright 2016
Released to several media outlets, including many newspapers as a letter to the editor and/or news filler, throughout East Tennessee and Western North Carolina in February 2010.
        In    June    of    2008,    officials    with    the    Tennessee    and    North    Carolina    Departments    of Transportation    released    a    draft    stating    their    intent    to    construct    a    new    highway,    deemed “Corridor   K,”   through   the   Stecoah   Gap   and   across   the   Appalachian   Trail.   Corridor   K   would   cut through   the   mountains   of   southeastern   Tennessee   and   southwestern   North   Carolina   connecting Chattanooga   to Asheville,   via   the   Ocoee   Gorge   in Tennessee   and   the   Cheoah   Mountains   in   North Carolina.    Completed    portions    of    Corridor    K    would    pave    the    way    for    Interstate    3,    a    road proposed to run from Savannah, Georgia to Knoxville, TN.       Part   of   the   proposal   calls   for   expanding   U.S.   Route   64   through   the   Cherokee   National   Forest (TN)   and   U.S.   Route   74   between   Stecoah   and   Robbinsville   (NC),   into   a   four-lane   highway.   The road    would    gash    through    the    Cherokee    and    Nantahala    National    Forests,    requiring    the excavation   of   rock,   and   cutting   tunnel   under   the   Snowbird   Mountains   in   NC.   The   pyretic   rock exposed by the project would result in acid-laden runoff in mountain streams.         Congressman    Zach    Wamp    and    State    Representative    Chris    Newton    both    advocate    the construction   of   Corridor   K/Highway   64   bypass   in   Polk   County,   with   a   whopping   projected   cost   of 2.3 billion dollars, twenty percent of which would have to come from the Tennessee budget.       A   portion   of   the   proposed   Corridor   K   is   part   of   the   Ocoee   Scenic   Byway,   the   nation’s   first National   Forest   Scenic   Byway   and   a   Tennessee   Scenic   Parkway.   Construction   of   the   roadway would   remove   a   vast   amount   of   forest.   The   proposal   for   Corridor   K   seems   irrational   considering the   potential   environmental   destruction   that   it   would   create.   Corridor   K   would   destroy   a southern   treasure,   replacing   part   of   our   mountains   with   asphalt,   concrete   and   pollution   (water, air,   and   noise).   Tennessee   and   North   Carolina   are   perhaps   best   known   for   their   natural   beauty, including    the    public    treasures    of    the    Cherokee    and    Nantahala    National    Forests.    The    two National   Forests   receive   a   million+   of   visitors   annually.   Visitors   to   the   area,   who   contribute   to the   local   economy,   will   begin   to   diminish   upon   the   construction   of   this   new   highway,   finding other areas to fulfill their recreational needs.       Those   who   are   pushing   Corridor   K   emphasize   the   new   road   is   necessary   for   the   safety   of travelers   and   rapid   truck   transports.   Supporters   believe   the   new   road   will   promote   business growth   to   the   area.   But,   another   highway   is   not   the   answer.   If   we   degrade   the   beauty   of   our region,   the   number   of   visitors   to   the   area   could   decrease   significantly,   therefore,   having   a negative   effect   on   the   economic   growth   of   the   region.   Havelock   Ellis   said   it   best   when   he stated,   “The   sun,   the   moon   and   the   stars   would   have   disappeared   long   ago   had   they   happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.”       In   addition   to   taking   away   the   God-given   beauty   of   the   mountains,   Corridor   K   would   have   a detrimental   effect   on   the   animals   and   plants   in   the   area.   The   2003   Draft   Environmental   Impact Statement,   developed   for   the   Tennessee   portion   of   Corridor   K,   indicated   that   35+   rare   species could   have   moderate   to   very   high   possibilities   of   being   affected   by   this   project.   The   sighting   of animals,   such   as   bear   and   deer,   that   the   national   forests   are   known   for,   will   decrease   with   the addition   of   a   new   four-lane   highway.   Corridor   K   will   also   present   a   higher   threat   of   danger   for our animals.       U.S.   64   can   be   difficult   for   trucks   to   navigate   and   has   a   higher   rate   of   accidents   than   similar roads.   Slight   modifications   to   the   current   road   alignments,   could   improve   the   safety   of   the road,    without    harmfully    impacting    the    surrounding    wilderness    and    neighboring    Hiawassee watershed.   In   2004   the   Tennessee   Department   Of   Transportation   (TDOT)   and   state   legislators recommended   straightening   several   curves   in   the   16-mile   stretch   of   U.S.   64,   at   a   cost   of roughly   $19   million,   but   that   project   was   stalled.   However,   if   they   are   so   caught   up   in   “fixing” this   road,   maybe   this   idea   should   be   reconsidered   instead   of   spending   billions   on   a   new highway.       The   timing   for   proposing   Corridor   K   is   ghastly.   We   are   in   an   economic   downturn.   Tennessee’s seasonally   adjusted   unemployment   rate   for   the   month   of   December   was   10.9   percent.   Our college   students   are   graduating   after   years   of   working   toward   a   degree   to   become   a   statistic: unemployed.   We   continue   to   place   more   money   into   education   funds,   encouraging   children   to go   to   college   when   we   now   cannot   guarantee   them   a   steady   job   or   even   any   job   once   they graduate. Right   now,   we   need   to   place   our   attention   on   our   own   economy.   The   United   States   lost   2.3 million   jobs   as   a   result   of   the   trade   imbalance   with   China   alone   between   2001-2007.   In   order to   improve   our   nation,   we   have   to   first   decrease   our   own   unemployment   rate   and   stop   sending an   outsourcing   of   jobs   to   countries   like   China   and   India. A   new   highway   is   not   a   necessity   right now.   Corridor   K   would   not   create   the   amount   of   jobs   this   region   needs   to   survive.   Instead   of spending   billions   on   Corridor   K,   we   should   use   that   money   to   generate   jobs   for   locals.   By bringing   manufacturing   companies   to   our   region,   we   could   decrease   the   unemployment   rate   in our country.       Also,   in   his   proposed   2010-2011   budget,   Governor   Phil   Bredesen   suggested   TennCare   cuts. The   impact   of   the   new   proposed   cut,   in   addition   to   last   year’s   cuts,   could   cost   hospitals   alone up   to   $500   million   in   state   and   federal   funding.   The   lack   of   funding   could   force   some   hospitals and   facilities   to   close   their   doors.   If   we   continue   cutting   TennCare,   people   cannot   get   the   care they   need.   The   continuation   of   these   cuts   will   be   devastating   to   our   society;   a   society   in   which people   are   already   struggling   to   make   enough   money   to   survive.   Instead   of   blowing   billions   on Corridor    K,    we    could    also    use    part    of    that    money    to    work    towards    providing    affordable insurance to more people in our state.       If   you   agree   with   any   of   this,   please   contact   your   elected   officials.   For   more   information,   visit the   Stop   I-3   Coalition   website   at   www.stopi3.org.   Comments   can   also   be   made   through   the public involvement link at www.tdot.state.tn.us/corridor k.       “The   struggle   to   save   the   global   environment   is   in   one   way   much   more   difficult   than   the struggle   to   vanquish   Hitler,   for   this   time   the   war   is   with   ourselves.   We   are   the   enemy,   just   as we   have   only   ourselves   as   allies,” Al   Gore   once   stated.   If   we   wish   to   save   our   mountain   region, we are going to have to bind together and fight for it. Everyone has a voice. Please raise yours. Sincerely, His Friends Jessi Cross, Media Relations and Communications Specialist