Taxpayers Opposed to Useless Roads

Stop The Fifth Interchange

at Mine Lick Creek Road

Cookeville, Tennessee

DEconstructing the Concocted Road Avrice Propaganda IN General


Last updated 19 NOV 2012


Welcome to the TOUR website. (Taxpayers Opposed to Useless Roads) This web site is for those people who want better government policy in road building. It is an exploration of the factors and frustrations surrounding the planning and management of transportation infrastructure in the state of Tennessee. Particular emphasis will be on the Proposed Mine Lick Creek Interchange in Cookeville, Tennessee but,there are many projects like this throughout Tennessee.

Since the justification for the Interchange has changed substantially from a interconnection between two four lane highways to serving a new business park with no four lane intersection,and now back to a two lane that might be a four lane in eight years,that business park and especially the construction of infrastucture will be added to the content. Besides that, the application for a certificate of need calls for the construction of a four lane down the middle of the park, including a 200 foot long bridge plus some approaches on each end. Unless this is a tourist attraction so people in Nashville can come and see what an empty street looks like, it is just another useless road and bridge. This is going to be our bridge to nowhere. An unused road, business park or auto factory will operate at a low economic efficiency and have substantial long term impacts and consequences for the taxpayer.

If you pump gas, pass through the state or ride the bus, you are going to be effected by the policies and proceedures of the Tennessee Department of Transportation or TDOT. I believe that better transportation policy is achievable through the ethical treatment of all taxpayers and seek to provide the other side of the story that is not known either through ignorance, blind trust or strategic misrepresentation.

Danny L. Newton

1445 Hillsdale Drive, Cookeville, 38506



CONTACT TOUR EDITOR Alternate email address

15 MAR 07 TO 22 OCT 07 ARCHIVE
23 OCT 07 TO 31 DEC 07 ARCHIVE
01 JAN 08 to 15 MARCH 08 ARCHIVE
09 MAR to 03 MAY 08 ARCHIVE
09 MAY 08 to 12 JUNE 08 ARCHIVE
13 JUNE 08 to 31 AUG 08 ARCHIVE
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12 NOV 08 to 12 MAR 09 ARCHIVE
13 MAR 09 to 22 NOV 11 ARCHIVE
23 NOV 11 to 01 APRIL 12 ARCHIVE
Vehicle Miles Traveled road and lane mile data 1980 to 2010
TDOT's Traffic Data by County- individual station counts
Traffic County Map for Putnam County
Traffic Maps For The State of Tennessee by County and City


Posted 19 NOV 2012


     Even though the H-C reported nearly an hour of public meeting on the annexation, the three minute rule was in force and most of the time seemed to be burned up by comments on the Industrial Park by the City Council members. Larry Epps admitted his culpability in this grievous infraction but the City council was understandably tolerant for the opinions of one of their colleagues. They were also tolerant of the comments from Matt Swallows that were slightly off topic.

     A visitor, no doubt unaware of the meaning of "staying on topic", who claimed not to live in town but having a piece of property near the future intersection of US 70 and the Bennett Road Extension inquired about the business atmosphere in the city. Matt Swallows, unable to control himself, launched into an outrageous example and proof of Cookeville's commitment to a business friendly atmosphere. Ironically, he proposed that the business park should be the yardstick by which one could accurately measure commitment to business. While even I believe that the City of Cookeville is a business friendly city, there are certain areas where the city will turn from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in an instant.

      If you have a business that in anyway stands in the way of this magic business park, the City will roll over you without looking in the rear view mirror. In the case of Mrs. Lynch, they don't mind calling you a liar and being very public about castigating you for alleged contract violations that never materialized in any public way. They don't mind using the excuse of building an industrial park to take your property and then getting two certificates of need, including a mixed use certificate, to make sure that they can get around the Tennessee law that allegedly protects landowners from predatory condemnation. They don't care how many jobs your business makes if your house in the right-of-way of the Bennett Road Extension.

     If you have land that could be used for an industrial park elsewhere, like the large piece near I-40 and Willow Ave, the city will use every tax dollar they have to make sure that you do not convert that property into a competing industrial park. Not only will you have to pay to advertise your own land but you will have to help develop and advertise the City's industrial park too. This situation is a lot like the city using CATS Busses to go to the airport and locally to compete with other businesses doing demand responsive private transportation. Private garbage collectors have been pushed out of their service area thus reducing their potential for income. The Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation only got relief from the greed of the city by going to court and getting a large judgment that the city is still paying out, using our electric bills as the means of paying for it.

      Still, Matt Swallows and Larry Epps insist that they are doing the bidding of the masses who are demanding that the city do something about "jobs." They have not quoted Lenin exactly like: To make an Omelet, one must break an egg", but they get pretty close to doing that. There have been over a thousand industrial jobs lost in Putnam County since the Certificates of Need were issued and there are people who know that Cummins/Fleetguard has laid off additional people. Their desperation and their willingness to twist and turn and pursue this project no matter what the cost just naturally makes people reach for the easier answer: They are serving some special interest. There was no vote of the people on the industrial park and there was no vote on the annexation. People who wanted to speak against the industrial park at the County Commission Level were suppressed by the County Commission. Even County Commissioner Jonathan Williams admitted this.

     Brian Paddock, counsel for the Cookeville Area Residents Association, again came to report that CARA's search for the last month or so showed no proof whatsoever that the Federal Highway Administration had required a northern connector as a condition of building the access to the industrial park. CARA has had the emails and correspondence for this project for over a month and has painstakingly gone through them to find a phrase that suggests that the FHWA is requiring this road. I counted 3 minutes and 6 seconds on his presentation. Maybe the H-C representative was nodding off during that time because the H-C failed to print that.
Ninth District Commissioner, Jonathan Williams came to speak and was not subjected to the three minute rule. He was frequently interrupted by City Councilman Larry Epps who used to be a County Commissioner. He suggested a slower pace on this project and suggested that there was a loss of public trust in the process. Earlier in the evening the comments made by the City Engineer, James Mills showed how badly the city and the county had handled the subject of an urban growth boundary. Most people find out too late what this means but those who live and work with it, like the city manager, James Mills and the City Council know all too well what it means, especially in Tennessee. It means that they can take you into the city on a whim. The younger Grimes Family member made a direct accusation of special interest dealing to get this project built and the Council seemed to bristle at the suggestion while at the same time ignoring all of the evidence that this project will never become what was intended. The people outside of the system have little other alternative but to resort to assuming the worst or ulterior motives. The three minute limit on protests, the prejudice generated by the local news paper against all who would doubt the value of the project, the finding by CARA that FHWA did not require the road(in writing), the dishonest count of those for and against the road in the public meetings with TDOT, the manipulation of the public forum format that prevents the public from getting a balanced view of the project and its probability of success as diminished those willing to fight City Hall but has not diminished the perception that there is dirty dealing somewhere by someone.

     There was a meeting after the meeting that gave me a chance to listen in on some conversations between Larry Epps and Jonathan Williams. Apparently somebody showed Councilman Epps some kind of analysis of a break even date on the Industrial Park or the annexation. He claims to remember it well. No one can calculate a reliable break even date for the Industrial Park since it does not even have a perspective client. This begs the question of how in the state could ever grant aid for such a park since the city could not fill out the paperwork which requires an estimate of the jobs created. The annexation break even might be calculable but only if certain data is clarified and dates given when the work will begin.

     James Mills also told me that there would be a grade separation for the railway and the Bennett Road Extension. He did not tell me that the bridges would be added to the estimate in the future. I reminded him that there was still going to be the matter of the screening of the Kenny's Junkyard. He acted like that was not on the horizon and I reminded him that it was state law. I don't see how the Grimes family can expect any mercy from the city if they have to put in this grade separation. The elder Mr. Grimes stated that the survey crew was coming on 19 November to do the surveying, so any talk of moving the alignment must happen quickly.

     I asked Mr. Mills how much money they wanted for a plot in the industrial park but he told me that they were not going to publish that. This, in my opinion would mean that there would be no Tennessee Select Designation as told by the H-C, Cookeville Times and the UCBJ. According to the website, that dollar amount needs to be published to get the designation. He acted like the designation had different levels and that the state could issue an inferior designation if you were not ready to expose your price yet. This will be another future trust issue if the park does not get the designation as promised and published by the Herald-Citizen. Mr. Mills also insisted that Wilson County had been blessed with an extra Interstate connection and refused to believe my own research that there was no proof that that construction did anything wonderful, especially for the general population of the county. The BEA indicates that Wilson County is a slow growing county with respect to per capita personal income. Putnam, Jackson and White county, had higher rates of growth than Wilson County from 1997 to the last year of government records, 2010.

     My brief comments for TOUR were only a request on a referendum on the annexation and a complaint about the cost transfer to other people who live in the city. The area annexed would have about 2000 people in it if it was similar to the rest of urban Cookeville, but the estimate was closer to 550 people. These services cannot be fully provided without forcing the rest of the city to chip in more. The H-C gave an estimate of the costs and the most expensive portion, sewer service was going to be delayed for an indefinite time. It would be interesting for the city to explain how the cost of general government got to be zero in a time when taxes just went up. I copy them below as a a spring board to later comments about this fiasco.

o General government $0

o Police (annual) $10,000

o Fire $2.2 million

o Refuse collection $18,000

o Parks and recreation $0

o Street maintenance (annual) $44,000

o Water $1.4 million

o Sewer $7.1 million

o Street lighting $34,800

o Natural gas $50,000


Posted 12 NOV 2012

The City has decided to annex the area that the Northern Connector - Bennett Road Extension will affect. And guess what: they plan to do it by ordinance. The folks to be directly affected have little or no say in the matter. Neither do you if you live elsewhere in the city...but the annexation still affects you because every annexation obligates the City to provide various services: sewerage, police & fire protection, etc. As you recall, some months back City Manager Jim Shipley told me that building the Bennett Road Extension would likely require a tax increase....the building of the road is only part of the cost; annexation of the area is more cost. Taxpayers have to pay.

Why is the City doing this? As you know, they desperately want the new I-40 interchange at Mine Lick Creek to provide enhanced access to their new business park. And as you also know, TDOT has told them repeatedly that they must build the Northern Connector or FHWA will not approve the interchange. So, even though city officials have said repeatedly that they do not want the new road, do not need a connector to the north, and cannot afford it, they are prepared to go ahead and commit to build it in the form of the Bennett Road Extension. Because BRE will be a city street, City cannot build it unless it is within city limits. Therefore they must annex this area, whether or not the people who live there want to be annexed....which many (almost certainly, most) do not want.

Are you ready to see City undertake the needless expenses of annexation and road building? Will your taxes go up because of this? Will other more useful projects be postponed because City's borrowing capacity is strained by the new road?

If the City is to annex this area, it should be done by referendum, not by ordinance. It is highly unfair to the people of the area to annex by ordinance, and also unfair to taxpayers throughout the city. We need a voice in this. The City Council needs to be told this.

Please attend the next City Council meeting, Thursday, Nov. 15, at 5:30 PM in the Council Chambers at City Hall to speak out against the annexation that the City will vote on at this meeting. Your friends and neighbors about to be annexed and/or about to have their property and lives disrupted by the Bennett Road Extension need your support. And if you care about our city's financial health, you need to speak out.

Thank you,




Posted 12 NOV 2012


When the H-C wants to calm the public about something new and possibly expensive, it is not unusual to find the words "it is within the budget" or "under the budget." This sends the signal that there is forethought and control about the intended action. No such assurances have been given in the case of the Bennett Road Extension or the Industrial Park in general. The city has managed to place the responsibility for the cost of the road within their own shop and out of public view by hiring their own consultants rather than the usual practice of letting TDOT handle the work. By the time the public finds out what the real cost is it will be too late.

      The Fifth Interchange has been a series of miscalculations that always seems to cost more money than originally estimated. The land cost more, the law suits cost more. The land is now not big enough or the wrong shape. The county was going to be a partner and now they are not. Most people have forgotten that the surveyed acres were less than the nominal acreage that was purchased. Most people never did figure out that the fraction of land that is useable is less than originally thought because of topography and sinkholes. The proposed land is still being surveyed for environmental problems such as wet lands. The construction is going to cost more also either now or much later in the future. There is no plan to elevate the roadway to separate the railroad and the new road as required by TDOT regulations. There also seems to be no realization that Kenny's will have to be screened from public view according to state law.

      Most people who go to a casino have a set amount of money they are willing to lose and when they get there, they stop gambling and go home. There seems to be no such attitude when it comes to the Industrial Park. There seems to be no such red line beyond which the city will not go. This should not inspire confidence in the general public and especially those who live within the City Limits. Getting the Tennessee Select designation for the industrial park means that the there must be a stated cost per lot offer to the potential Industrial Park shopping clients. Knowing that dollar value would give a hint at what the city and the county were ready to bear with respect to costs. My county commissioner is unaware of any discussion betweeen the city and the county about how much tax money they are willing to throw away.


Posted 26 SEPT 2012

     If you read the latest announcement in the H-C, you might be tempted to believe that the city was cleaning up like a mad dog in a meat house with all of the property taxes that they were getting off of the 500 new residents of the city. The city is estimating the cost of the annexation as $10.9 million but it is not clear that that will be the end of it and after the $10.9 million is spent everyone will have city services. Most amazing is the finding that the total build out of infrastructure north of I-40 is not feasible right now even thought south of I-40, where there are no clients for the Highlands Business Park, $14.4 million dollars was spent for infrastructure plus whatever the cost overrun turns out to be.
     Nobody noticed that the estimated $145,444.35 in new property tax revenue would in no way come close to paying for the $10.9 million dollars in annexation costs. To find out what a series of payments is worth over a long period of time as a single lump sum in the present, one need only consult a mortgage calculator found in numerous places on the Internet. To do the calculation, you have to assign a time and an interest rate. Since the state allows 40 years to pay back a loan if the asset lasts that long, I have selected 40 years. Since the City borrowed money from the county at 5% to pay for the business park, I will use 5%. The calculator is here.
     Entering the estimated annual property tax bonanza that is alleged as $145,444.35 and asking for a principal calculation yields about $2.5 million dollars. This means that there will be a shortage of $8.4 million dollars from property taxes to pay off this "investment" in the Highlands Industrial Park. The city could make additional money from the sale of electricity water, sewer services and gas but some of these services are going to be delayed until feasible. Another way to look at it is to calculate the tax required to pay off the $10.9 million dollars. According to this calculator, the annual tax would have to be $635,231.96. This means that every year the city will lose $489,787.61 on this annexation for the next 40 years. If you figure the city population of Cookeville as 30,000 it turns out to be about $16.33 per person for the next 40 years. Cookeville should naturally grow that additional 1222 people in about 5 years.
     Using 2011 information, the city gets about $323.74 per person in sales taxes and about $196.11 per person in property taxes. The city could grow out of this $8.4 million dollar shortage by simply getting 1222 extra people to live in Cookeville and they would have to make about $49,500 each no matter what their age or their state of retirement. The 2010 average per capita Putnam County income was $30,057. I assume that the estimated 500 people already annexed will already be spending a lot of their money in the city. Unfortunately that is seriously over the average per capita income of the county so more than 1222 people would have to be accommodated. Another problem would be that these people would have to be perfect people who required no additional fire, police, or any other services for the next 40 years. About 220 of the 1222 would be in the school system, thus costing the county another $2 million on the school budget. Therefore, they all have to home school.
     The cost of the Highlands Industrial Park has just gone up by another $8.4 million dollars to at least $34.4 million dollars not counting the overruns we already know about and the ones to come in the future construction. The city is planning on growing its way out of this financial problem but it has raised the break even cost per lot on the industrial park to $152,000 per acre. This is about ten times the original purchase price per acre. At some point we have to admit that there is little or no hope that this Industrial Park will ever be an Industrial Park. Attempting to recover all cost would mean sending prospective customers to other locations.


Posted 15 SEPT 2012

                            299 Allen Hollow Rd., Cookeville, TN 38501

                                                                        13 Sept. 2012

Mayor Matt Swallows
City Council Members Albrecht, Anderson, Epps, & Woodford
City Manager Jim Shipley
City Planner James Mills

cc: County Executive Kim Blaylock
     Cookeville Planning Commission Jim Stafne & members


        The Cookeville Area Residents Assoc. (CARA) recently placed FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) documents requests with TDOT and FHWA. We requested all documents, correspondence,
e-mails etc. between FHWA and TDOT and the City of Cookeville pertinent to the approval of the proposed new I-40 Interchange at Mine Lick Creek Road and its associated northern connector road. The purpose of our request was to try to determine whether or not FHWA actually requires a connector road from the proposed new interchange northward to US 70N as a prerequisite to approving the construction of the interchange. The purpose of the present letter is to inform you of the results of the first stage of this enquiry.

        However, it seems only proper that we first explain why we have undertaken this effort.

1) City officials, present and past, have stated repeatedly, both publicly and in private, that they would prefer not to have to build the northern connector road (currently referred to as the Bennett Road Extension). Mr. Shipley has stated that the road is not needed ("not in our lifetimes"), that it will be a financial burden to the city (absorbing most of the City's debt capacity and possibly requiring new taxes). Various official letters and resolutions show that the City would prefer not to build this road, but is prepared to do so if it is necessary to acquire FHWA approval of the new interchange.

2) As best we can determine from talking to City officials, past and present, no City official has actually had a conversation or written exchange directly with FHWA to determine whether or not FHWA requires the northern connector or possibly might approve the construction of the new interchange without it. Rather, City officials have chosen to simply accept TDOT's opinion that FHWA will not approve the new interchange without the northern connector. We have in our files several letters from TDOT to City officials which include statements to the effect that TDOT "believes" that FHWA will not approve the new interchange without the northern connector. But evidently no one from the City of Cookeville has consulted directly with FHWA to verify this. We feel this is a serious omission by City officials.

        In view of the above, we have undertaken to find out whether or not there exists an FHWA
requirement for the northern connector road, in the hopes of finding a means by which the City might
relieved of the burden of this project.

        At the present time, we are able to report to you that TDOT has provided a number, though evidently yet not all, the documents requested. We have reviewed the pertinent documents, which include letters from TDOT to the City of Cookeville, FHWA project approval letters, and a statement of FHWA policies regarding new interstate access points. We are unable to find in any document provided by TDOT any concrete evidence that the northern connector road is an FHWA requirement or that FHWA would withhold approval of the new interchange if the northern connector is not part of the overall plan. Instead, we find:

1) Letters from TDOT to City of Cookeville stating that TDOT officials "believe" that FHWA will not approve the new interchange without the connector road.

2) Letter from FHWA approving the interchange based on the March 2010 Addendum to Interchange Justification Study which included, at TDOT's insistence, the northern connector road.

3) No evidence that FHWA was ever approached by either TDOT or City of Cookeville with the suggestion that a partial interchange be constructed, i.e., with connectivity to the south only as proposed and urged by the City of Cookeville to TDOT as recently as 28 Jan. 2010 (letter from Shipley and Blaylock to then-Commissioner Nicely).

4) The 2005 (apparently current) FHWA policies regarding new interstate connections, as set forth in "Guidance on Interstate Access Approval", do not require connector roads in both directions from each and every new interstate interchange.

        In sum, based on the documents provided thus far to CARA by TDOT, it is our belief that the FHWA can, if it chooses, approve the new interchange at Mine Lick Creek Road with no connector road north to US 70N, but that this proposal has never been put to FHWA. It appears to us that TDOT has, in essence, bullied the City of Cookeville in to accepting the plan that TDOT prefers, with little or no regard to the actual transportation needs of the City or Putnam County.

        An additional finding from our documents review is that the 2010 Addendum to Interchange Justification Study, on which the latest FHWA interchange approval is based, states clearly that the northern connector road need not be built concurrently with the interchange, but can follow later as needed. It appears to us that TDOT's insistence that City proceed immediately with design studies and ROW acquisition is inconsistent with the study on which FHWA based its approval of the interchange.

        Additional documents have been requested from TDOT, and any significant findings will be reported to you when possible.

        In the meantime, we will be glad to meet with any of you to go over the documents in our possession, especially those that demonstrate that the City has been coerced by TDOT to agree to build the northern connector on the basis of nothing more than TDOT's stated "belief" that FHWA will not approve the interchange without it.

        The second part of our enquiry, the FOIA request made directly to FHWA, has not yet been answered, but we received notification on 11 Sept. that FHWA is in the process of complying with the request. We will review the FHWA documents at the earliest opportunity and send the recipients of this letter a follow up report on our findings.

        It may turn out that the northern connector is not actually required by FHWA for the new interchange. It may be that FHWA would approve a partial interchange, with connectivity only to the south to the new business park, if the proposal was made to them by City. This is certainly a matter that needs to be explored by City officials in direct communication with FHWA. In the meantime, we would like to suggest, and respectfully request, that the City of Cookeville put the Bennett Road Extension project on hold, to avoid further expense that may ultimately prove unnecessary.

        Respectfully submitted,

        Richard C. Finch
        CARA CoChair


Posted 15 SEPT 2012

PROJECT# IM-40-6(149)
COUNTY: Putnam
21 AUGUST 2012
      The traffic estimates for this project are every bit as imaginary as the possibility that the industrial park will get a viable client in a reasonable amount of time. Both TDOT and the FHWA are co-conspirators in this fantasy. The people who are concerned by the possibility of air brake and road noise have been needlessly excited. Reactions to the RPM traffic estimates by the City of Cookeville and the public are quite different. Concern about noise and air brakes could only be credible if the traffic counts were correct. The city shows no action that would betray the slightest intention of acting as if the estimates could possibly be valid. The city seems to be either ignoring these impacts or realizes that it cannot afford to react to them as if they are real.
     In the original 1996 plan the railroad was to cross the connecting road at a grade separation. All preparation of for this grade separation seems to have disappeared. Older versions of estimates excluded this cost in the estimates too. TDOT's own rules on railroads using grade separation on limited access roads are being ignored. Is this a problem with cost control which would not be happening without the interchange or is it a problem with the exaggerated traffic count? TDOT seems to be avoiding responsibility for these problems since it divided the project into interchange and connector road. The problems would not happen however if the interchange were not there as the first cause.
     Another example of inconsistent downstream road design caused by this interchange is the design upgrade of Lee Seminary road. Usually, traffic builds slowly over years as a result of population growth and changes in land use. This traffic estimate is stranger still when considering that all of the traffic comes in 2013 with very little growth after that. Even though the design of the roads beyond and connected to the interchange is not directly connected to the interchange construction, the overblown estimate that has been made could force an over designed interchange and an over designed response to the interchange by the city and the county. The county certainly has no financial capacity to react to this interchange. It has financially exhausted itself and is in the top five counties in the state for per capita debt. The city seems to be acting like it has a long time to eat this elephant. The city is in better shape financially and it can use its utility accounts for additional sources of revenue. The positive economic impact of the interchange is eagerly anticipated but the logical consequences that there might be additional downstream cost are ignored.
      In spite of the high traffic count expected by RPM in 2013, the city is upgrading the east end of Lee Seminary Road to a three lane road as it approaches SR-135. Right now, Lee Seminary road widens to a newly constructed three-lane road from a two lane close to the intersection of Holladay Road with Lee Seminary Road and then eastward to SR135. No timely action is taking place to widen or strengthen the old bridge on Lee Seminary Road that accommodates the existing two-lane portion or the one on Bennett Road. The existence of utilities along the road would make widening costly. Apparently, the occasional local flooding at the location of the former bridge on Lee Seminary Road won't be worth solving until after achieving 24,000 AADT. The idea of having to divert emergency traffic off of I-40 and onto Lee Seminary Road is going to be a rare but interesting day. The Federal Government recently approved increased truck loads for Interstate Travel. Other locations throughout the city that actually do have a minimum traffic count of 24,000 per day always handle the traffic with a five-lane road, not a two or a three-lane road. Examples of traffic counter locations exceeding 24,000 AADT are on South Jefferson south of Jackson, counter number 49, and the section of Willow between Broad and Spring Street, counter number 98.
       Even though the traffic plan in the Interchange Justification Study foresees a tee-intersection between Lee Seminary, running east and west and SR-135 running north and south, no mention of a plan to either signalize or take some other evasive action on the planned traffic has emerged. If there was any chance of getting a traffic signal installed, it would take at least another year, well past the grand opening of the business park and the imaginary avalanche of traffic from the Highlands Industrial Park.
     Page 12/401 of the Amended Interchange Study shows that 24,000 AADT will be on be on the east-west portion of a tee-intersection with S. Willow Ave.(SR135). Traffic counter 132 shows a traffic count of 14,281 and the engineering study predicts that it will be 16,000 next year, this is close agreement. Oddly enough, this reasonable count takes place at an Interstate Exit and where there are several industrial enterprises along Gould Road. Why is there no traffic Armageddon here similar to the one predicted in the IJS by RPM? There are similar land use policies in both places. Further south, along SR-135, the count diminishes to about 10,648 AADT once it is out of the influence of the existing industrial development. Counter number 142, very near the future intersection of Lee Seminary Road with SR 135, shows a north-south traffic count of 10,648 in 2011. It is hard to imagine safe left-hand turns taking place at this new intersection without delay.
     There are no counters near the new industrial park, nor any other substantial local industrial park or manufacturing concentration. It must be that there never has been a past interest in measuring the traffic Armageddon unleashed as a result of manufacturing activity. Even the VW plant in Chattanooga sees no traffic problems in as much as the average counter around the park has fallen back to the 2006 level. The roundabouts on the VW property are an open confession that there is no overwhelming traffic crunch there even after the addition of the Amazon facility.
     Bennett Road now carries only about 1000 AADT including morning and afternoon school bus traffic. According to the Amended IJS, it will spike to over 7000 according to the RPM analysis. This level of predicted traffic is nearly identical to the current east-west traffic counts already on US-70. Once again we have a planned, at grade, tee-intersection that should cause traffic concerns by the city, yet no action indicating that they understand or take seriously the implications of the traffic estimates made by RPM. The design for Bennett road beyond the immediate vicinity of the Interchange shrinks to accommodate fewer lanes, thus confirming that lower traffic is expected by the city than predicted by RPM. The City, TDOT, FHWA and RMP are obviously not using the same crystal ball.
     The most likely explanation for the 7000 traffic count on Bennett Road is that is coming from the imaginary, expensive and controversial loop around Cookeville that was dreamed up in 1996. Instead of making a tee-intersection, Bennett Road Extension, in the future, is supposed to fly over US-70 on a grade separation. It might be that the bridge that would carry Bennett Road Extension over US-70 would need to be widened in the near future since parts of US-70 have been targeted for capacity upgrades sometime in the future. If US-70 and Bennett Road each had 7000 AADT, and formed a tee-intersection, there would be a problem with left turns at morning and afternoon peaks. Counter #174 and Counter #25 near the intersection of Jackson with US-70 show similar traffic volumes, 9322 and 8007 AADT but, these existing intersections are controlled by traffic lights and this is also the point where US-70 begins to widen to three-lane as it enters town. To be consistent, there should be a plan to signalize the Bennett Road and the US-70 intersection, unless you know the traffic counts are a hoax or impossible to materialize in twenty years. The city has taken no action to limit new construction along US-70 in anticipation of the upgrades promised in RPO meetings and has yet to act if this alleged traffic count might cause a problem.
     Since TDOT has ordered RPO's to plan for projects broken down to five mile maximum lengths, this loop around the city has no chance of being completed in twenty years. The northwest quadrant length was thought to be 10.5 miles in 1996. The south west quadrant length, heading for SR-135 and the regional airport, would be about the same length. There have been many versions of this loop but they all seem to go through farm land, trailers, junkyards and pre-WW II housing. As time marches on, the best land for housing and other land uses will push this alignment into more and more difficult terrain and make the cost go up for reasons that go beyond inflation. The purpose of the loop road seems more related to urban/rural renewal than any attempt to create transportation efficiency. The southern connection with SR 135 used to go through a subdivision that was not shown on the map. A recent upgrade of the plan moved the legend over this embarrassing lack of planning and prevents anyone from noticing it.

   The cost of this loop quadrant along the northwest side of Cookeville is so outrageous compared with the benefit likely to be gained, there seems little likelihood that the loop or any additional segments of the loop will be built within the 20-year design horizon that is expected when using federal money. This proposed loop is a continuous excuse to procrastinate on local traffic problems. The course of the loop road is basically north south, thus duplicating geometry and capability that already exists. Only the portion that connects SR135 and SR111 is mostly east to west.
     The new Mine Lick Creek Interchange will be a constant cause of the decline in service on I-40 because it will be another means of using I-40 as an east-west arterial for local access to points eastward within Cookeville. If you live in Baxter and work east of the new exit, you might be tempted to use I-40 via this new exit rather than Buffalo Valley Road or US-70. Already, traffic counts show that there is a lot of local traffic on I-40 because there is no realistic local government plan to provide adequate east-west arterials in the urban areas north of I-40. Average DVMT on the rural portion of the Interstate in Putnam County has declined in the last five years of records but the urban records of Interstate travel have shown growth.
     There is no means of holding the planning commission or RPO responsible for transportation efficiency and they have no responsibility to raise the money to fix the traffic problems they create. A history of rejecting professional advice is well known at the city level. Advice from professional traffic engineers has been ignored anytime they did not support the construction of the Highlands Business Park. The closest thing to an east-west arterial that was recently built is West Jackson Street and even it eventually curves northward to US-70. That action was barely passed and bitterly opposed on the basis of it being a waste of money and unneeded. Traffic has since tripled along the commercially developed road.
     The state highway fund can never expect to recover fully from this "investment." If the state could accumulate in a special fund the yearly incremental increase and decreases in real GDP from all manufacturing in the state, it would take 12 years to pay off the cost of this interchange. Paying for this interchange is like an internal financing agreement where no one complains or learns anything when it does not work. If the $15 million dollar cost were discounted at 5% over 40 years and the average rural VMT on Interstate were priced at 2.5 cents per vehicle mile, the state could be seen as pledging the gas tax income on 2.78 miles of rural interstate over 40 years just to pay for the initial "investment." TDOT prides itself in the sparing use of borrowing but this kind of borrowing is all to frequent and remains uncounted. This does not count maintenance over that period of time. It also does not include the eventual request to light the interchange to show everyone that it is "open for business."
      At $15 million dollars, and an average payment to TDOT of 2.5 cents per VMT, it will take 600 million VMT to pay for this modest interchange. Tennessee sees an average of $2.76 of GDP from any source per vehicle mile traveled. The manufacturing real gross yearly incremental output of all factories in Tennessee measured in 2005 dollars from the year 2000 to 2011 is not sufficient to return to the state highway fund the money taken out to build this or any other typical speculative interchange. If every real dollar increase over the previous year of manufacturing GDP produced over the previous 11 years were funneled directly to the highway trust fund at the rate of 2.5 cents per $2.76 of Real incremental 2005 GDP, the period 2000 to 2011 would only yield 532 million VMT of the total required 600 million VMT required to pay off the interchange. If you discount to account for the time value of money, it does not even pay for half of it.
     The amount of industrial activity required to pay for this interchange cannot be captured and dedicated solely to the benefit of the state highway fund but if it could, it is possible to generate estimates of the maximum required local size based on relationships between average state job count and square footage. Even though proving that all manufacturing could not justify building this, the magical thinking that the new industrial park can justify the expenditure is still alive and well at the Chamber of Commerce. In 2012 a private sector concern estimated the amount of active factory space in Tennessee was 268,823,958 square feet. The estimated number of jobs on that floor space was 416,963. The average amount of factory space per worker is 645 square feet. To restore the 3210 industrial jobs lost in Putnam County between 2001 and 2010, it would be necessary to provide an additional 2,070,450 square feet of single story floor space within the industrial park. Assuming that there needs to be 3 times as much space outside of the building as inside the building for parking and the extravagant landscaping and architectural requirements imposed on the Highlands Business Park, it would be expected that the combined industrial areas required would be 8,281,800 square feet or 190+ acres. The park has gone through several design changes but one consistent thing is that the industrial park is made up of five acre plots. It would take 38 five-acre plots with a square building 233 feet on a side planted on each lot to fulfill this requirement. After subtracting the sinkholes, cemetery space, wet lands, property given to TDOT, property bought by the city electric company and the park that is to be supported by future clients of the industrial park there are not enough net spaces to support the assumption that this Industrial park can take us back even ten years of losses in industrial employment.
     From this unlikely estimate of success can be derived another estimate of trips from the park. A target population of 3210 manufacturing workers, the 2001 to 2010 loss in Putnam County, would produce 6420 trips coming and going to work at the industrial park every day and if each of the imaginary 38 five-acre manufacturing parcels had three deliveries and one truck picking up finished product every day, the average daily number of trips would be 7,636 trips per day about a third of the RMP estimate.
      Privately generated data on Tennessee manufacturing productivity also confirms that the average factory produced $542 per square foot in 2012. To produce enough GDP to pay for this interchange, this industrial park would require production on a floor space of 2.675 million square feet to pay off just the cost of the interchange via manufacturing GDP. This industrial park is not big enough, even if it could be filled. Of course, this growth could build gradually over a forty year period to pay off the investment by TDOT. Using 5% discounting, 40 years and a principal of $15,000, 000 the yearly payment would be $874,172.42 per year. This would translate into 34.9 million VMT per year and a new single industry producing $96.5 million dollars per year for 40 years to pay off this interchange. If 60% of product costs were wages, the yearly payroll would be $57.9 million per year and require 1930 new employees. This level of new jobs would have to be permanent or too big to fail for 40 years and rises to the level of a Volkswagen plant in economic impact. There is no Volkswagen plant on the horizon and all of the local buzz is concentrated on getting some kind of supplier that might make a door seal or turn signal for one. Since the deal with Volkswagen promised that the state would not help any competitor of VW within one hundred miles of the VW manufacturing plant, it is possible that the state could not legally provide any assistance that would benefit a potential VW competitor in Putnam County

     By now, it must be obvious that the industrial park is just a pretext for condemnation of land in the vicinity of the industrial park. Once an industrial park is established, there is no need to go through the certificate of need process or to justify taking any adjacent property. The certificate of need process does not establish actual need or financial ability to satisfy that need. The dual certificate for mixed and industrial use betrays the intention to grow other sectors of the economy beside industrial. Why this ruse was even required considering TDOT's plan to plant an interchange at O'Neil Road in Cocke County for the benefit of restaurants and a motel is mystifying.
      There will have to be GDP from hotels, motels gas stations and retail sales to justify the expense of this interchange. The Interstate interchange has always been prime real estate for road-side services, not manufacturing. We already have unused manufacturing space on the I-40 at SR-136 and contains it 39 acres. It is called Norwalk and it used to have 100 manufacturing employees. Another potential industrial park is on SR-135 and less than a third of a mile north of I-40 and is advertised on the Internet as industrial park space available. There are additional advertised industrial spaces along I-40 near its intersection with SR-111 and on the Interchange west of the proposed Fifth Interchange, south of Baxter. Mine Lick Creek Road Interchange will be the fifth unused industrial site in Putnam County that is along the Interstate. Mine Lick Creek Interchange will be known as the interchange for the greedy, not the needy.
     The road side service industry is doing well in Putnam County. Extrapolation of 2001 to 2010 numbers shows that it could be expected to double in 20 years even if inflation is taken into consideration. Accommodation and food service in Putnam County has grown from $37million to $59.8 million in current dollars from 2001 to 2010. TDOT's long-range plan and prediction on the future of the I-40 & I-81 corridor between Bristol to Memphis is that the Level of Service on I-40 will drop to "D" in 2030. This will damage all sectors of the economy by shrinking the radius of travel that can be managed in any set time along I-40. For local employment, the distance that can be travelled in an hour will shrink as well as travel efficiency. Paying for this interchange and a lot of other TDOT plans out of alleged or imaginary travel efficiency is like planning on great wealth derived from planting magic beans.
      The state, including TDOT, is operating a failed plan to revive industrial jobs through the provision of gratuitous interchanges. The pattern of manufacturing job loss from urban areas can be seen by simply noticing that the bigger the county population, the more manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past nine years of BEA records. After winning a Volkswagen Plant, the 9 year loss of manufacturing jobs from Hamilton County from 2001 to 2010 was 8,499. The only Tennessee counties that have gained manufacturing jobs during the same time are rural and two of the four to gain jobs in the last nine years of BEA records don't even have an Interstate in them. It is possible that the main reason for the flight of manufacturing jobs from urban areas in Tennessee is the urge to escape congestion and excessive taxation. Urban areas are rarely close to raw materials.
      All food service and accommodation income from Putnam County between 2001 and 2010 has already sent to the state highway fund $42.7 million dollars if personal compensation can be used as a proxy for GDP. This is amazing since the Accommodations portion of the BEA records shows shrinkage of 12 percent in Putnam County from 2001 to 2010. By comparison, all Putnam County manufacturing over the same period only sent to the state highway fund $28 million dollars. It too, is shrinking and if it continues at the current pace will be cut half in just 19 years if real dollar gains and losses are considered. Even though these two sectors of the local economy could finance an additional interchange, it could very well be that they would be financing it for the benefit of their competitors at the other local exits.
      Paying for new road work with new GDP requires that the transportation system be altered for new and greater economic efficiency. The ratio of what comes out must be greater than what goes in. When greater travel efficiency was created by the Interstate, many road side service businesses were no longer necessary. Many local jobs were lost in economic restructuring when road side service industries congregated on the exits to take advantage of the high volume of traffic. Increasing the cost of Interstate travel by adding gratuitous interchanges creates the environment for reversing that restructuring and a return to lower transportation productivity. This new interchange only increases the cost per mile of Interstate travel. It would be a good deal for the traveler only if it provided less expensive road side services and shortened trips for local and through travelers. None of that is promised or expected. The combined Food service and accommodation sectors were able to increase in the past ten years without the interchange. New Accommodation and Food Service on the Fifth Interchange are highly likely to divide the existing and future volumes of business among the businesses on the other four interchanges.
     New local travel efficiencies are negligible and very localized with this Fifth Interchange area. To get this interchange, Cookeville has artificially expanded its borders and will be forced to slow down traffic on rural collectors via speed limits imposed and the ever present four way stop sign. Cookeville cannot gain the ambiance of a business friendly city and generate policies that raise taxes at the same time. It will take on added debt and the city is not acting as if it takes seriously the possible ramifications of future maintenance. Only those who live west of the new Bennett Road extension and south of US-70 would be attracted to using the new interchange to go west on I-40 to Nashville. Only those able to live south of the Interstate near Bennett Road will be able to get to the hospital any quicker and not by much. Police response time cannot possibly be increased in the newly annexed area without additional labor and capital costs. Fire service is not likely to be enhanced without building additional facilities. The city fire trucks cannot pump water from most of the surrounding water systems for fighting fires because the federally funded rural pipe systems were designed for potable water delivery only, not fire fighting. I doubt that a modern city fire truck could even get over the bridge near Cane Creek Park on Buffalo Valley Road because of weight restrictions. It has been repaired but the degraded load limits were not changed.
      This new interchange is a continuation of failed land use policy that can be traced back to 1979 on the national level and 1984 on the state level. These are the years that manufacturing jobs began to decline in the United States and Tennessee. The regulation and taxation forces exerting downward pressures on manufacturing jobs bears no relationship to the number of exits on the Interstate. Manufacturing jobs grew when we had fewer exits and they declined when we had more. In Tennessee, the quest to provide more manufacturing jobs by providing more exotic manufacturing habitat is continuing to fail and it will also fail when providing more habitat for other land use classifications.


Posted 28 AUG 2012

      According to the county attorney, there is no commitment to finance part or all of the Fifth Interchange. Certainty on this point comes from the fact that there was no dollar amount mentioned in the resolution of support. Tennessee law states that whoever asks for an interchange is obligated to pay for half of all costs not just the road that connects to it and they must pay for all of the maintenance costs. So, how did this change in policy take place without the law being changed? The question has been asked in the last meeting held by TDOT but no one answered it. Just as the city was required to pay a storage fee for Center Hill Lake, I see no reason why building these interchanges could not be seen as an excuse for some future attempt to recover the investment.

      Putnam County has a serious debt problem. In 2009 there were only three other counties in Tennessee that had more Per Capita debt than Putnam County. They were Hancock, Williamson and Davidson Counties. Many counties get by on several hundred dollars in per capita debt or even zero debt as in the case of McMinn County, but Putnam County had $1371 in 2005 and $1858 per capita in 2011. This is nothing compared to the federal debt but the federal government is not limited to a one percent sales tax and the property taxes. In 2005 our average debt payment was 7.5 million over 14 years. In 2011, our average debt payment was 10.7 million dollars over 18 years. From 2005 to 2011 our Long term average debt payment changed from 31.7% of all total local taxation to 41.4% of local taxation.

      Putnam County from 2001 to 2010, according to BEA records has grown from 63,130 to 72,567 people. This is an average annual growth rate of 1.56% per year and if nothing changes, it will mean that we will double in size in 44.8 years. Our collective income has gone up an average of 2.77 percent per year but after inflation, our collective income will double in 172.9 years. Unfortunately, government services must be purchased with real current prices. If we could get rid of 9,193 people from 2001 to 2010, we would put the cost per person back to the 2001 level. The same amount of government resources must be applied in ever thinner layers to cover all of the population or there will be ever increasing pressure on tax increases. Some of this decline is demographic because people who retire generally plan on living on incomes below that which they had to have to pay for a house and other children-related expenses. When taxes do not grow at the rate of the population, additional taxation will only shrink disposable income. We have to off load everything that we don't need or is not working.

      Our money comes through the sales tax and property taxes. Sales taxes are sensitive to income levels and the county residents have experienced increasing income from 2001 to 2010. Average compensation per job increased every year but once the increase was adjusted for inflation, the useable amount would double every 141.7 years. The manufacturing component of personal income has fallen every year since 2003. At the current rate of decline it will be half of what it is now in just 19 years, if nothing changes. Our county per capita income fell in 2009 even though the average wage per job increased. Sales taxes are not going to keep up with the demand of a government that is growing at a rate of 8.1% per year. Our local government payrolls will double in 8.9 years.

      The property tax situation is likewise problematic. Industrial property has increased about 7/8 of one percent per year over the last ten years. This rate of increase makes it double in 79.5 years. Inflation however will cause the value of the property to be cut in half in 50 years. The background inflation rate in the last ten years makes prices double every 30.7 years. (There is no solid government sanctioned inflation rate for 2011 so I have used the inflation rate for 2000 to 2010. )The declining value of industrial property begs the question of why the city is wanting more industrial property? Similar problems can be seen with the inflation adjusted rates that are charged for residential property. Residential property is doubling every 67 years after inflation is considered. Agricultural land is doubling every 83.4 years. Commercial Property is doubling every 86 years.

      No county budget can offset bad state and federal policy. TDOT is operating what should be one of the most embarrassing long term failures since the state legislature promised a four lane connection to the Interstate from every county seat to the Interstate back in 1987. This was the year that the legislature raised gas taxes substantially to pay for it and we are yet to see the completed asphalt because the tax money is not able to stretch that far, especially over tough terrain. This is a social justice program that robs the people who live in urban areas for the benefit of those that want to live in the mountains or other difficult terrain without suffering the loss of urban amenities and travel inconveniences. When the legislature passed this, I don't think they thought the day would come that five out of eight would live in urban areas.

      The state of Tennessee has been operating an economic development program out of the highway trust fund that should have been, by now, a major embarrassment. Fortunately for both political parties, there is bipartisan support and the taxpayer has not yet noticed the impact of this bad policy. While TDOT and the state were operating this failed program the state lost nearly one-third of all of the industrial jobs in Tennessee. I have already covered in previous reports how only 4 out of 95 counties have actually gained industrial jobs between 2001 and 2010, the last year of Bureau of Economic Analysis records. These counties are mostly rural and two of them don't even have an Interstate. The one county that has an Interstate interchange is getting it upgraded but has not asked for another one to get more industrial jobs. That would be Cheatham County. The state wants to build a speculative interchange in Fayette County for the purpose of making the property just south of Haywood County more likely to get a car manufacturing facility. This site has been passed over at least two other times but hope springs eternal that the project will make the difference. Fayette County is another county that has gained industrial jobs during the nine years when one out of every three jobs in the state was lost. In general, the more rural the location, the more likely the county is to gain industrial jobs in Tennessee. For some reason, there seems to be a bias against urban areas. It could be the traffic problems, the taxes or the work force demographics and some people think it is the work force attitude about work. Nobody seems to care because they love taking the credit for the few and statistically unimportant victories that do occasionally happen.

      The policy of installing gratuitous interchanges in Tennessee probably began around 1998. Many of the Interchange justification reports have been taken down from the internet but it is fairly easy to access a few of them. In Robertson County they tried putting an interchange on I-65 that was between two industrial parks. One of them was 920 acres. Where are their jobs? So desperate has the state been to get a victory, they put an interchange at an existing industrial park that was alleged to have over 400 workers in it already. This interchange had a reported cost of $18 million dollars. The industrial park was already served by Buttermilk road in Louden County from both the east and the west. This will be the location of a future VW distributorship with an additional 300 workers. Louden County has the unusual distinction of having an increase in manufacturing compensation from 2001 to 2010, when the number of manufacturing jobs went down by 139. It is possible that the bureau of Economic Analysis will not count these future VW distributorship jobs as manufacturing jobs but nothing will stop the local Chamber of Commerce from crowing about it. In spite of the increase in manufacturing compensation, the real increase was 0.375% per year. From the state standpoint however, why spend so much on any project as long as the distributorship was likely to land in Tennessee, there is no state based advantage to favor one Tennessee location over another.

      One of the worst examples of economic development misfires is in Cocke County. Originally, I was mis-lead by emails from residents there into believing that this site was a legitimate industrial site that suddenly morphed into a potential prison plan. This sounded plausible since exactly that same scenario had played out in Trousedale County except they actually built a prison on their industrial park. Unlike our Fifth Interchange, I doubt there was ever a serious effort to set industrial bait before switching to mixed commercial usage. The Cocke County Chamber of Commerce never answered my e-mail queries about the project. The Interchange Justification Study, still on the web, shows that the justification for building it is purely for the benefit of three restaurants and a motel. The transportation reasoning is that better roads will be required to handle the induced traffic. This whole justification study assumes that there will be absolutely no business stolen from existing businesses on interchanges east and west of O'Neil road.

      So far, no one who has gotten one of these gratuitous interchanges whether they be in Wilson County, Hamilton County, Montgomery County, or Bradley County has ever reaped the cornucopia of jobs and spin off jobs that was promised or hoped for. The reason is simple. Interchanges don't create industrial jobs. You can build all of the industrial property that you want on the Interstate and it won't cause a permanent job to be created. They did not cause the increase in jobs before 1979 and they did not cause the loss since 1984. Putnam County already has industrial property for sale or lease at the 280 exit at Baxter, There is industrial property north of the Willow Avenue Exit roughly across from the Post Office. The abandoned Norwalk factory is still for sale on Jefferson or exit 287. There is also industrial property available at the next exit east at the intersection of I-40 and SR-111. The Fifth Interchange will just be the fifth available factory site near the Interstate in Putnam County.

      When the Roman Empire fell, the secret of making concrete was lost until about the middle of the 1800's. Like the Roman Empire, TDOT has lost the secret of using asphalt and cement to produce wealth in Tennessee. Ironically, the idea of economic development as applied by TDOT and our legislature is toxic to actually acquiring economic development. Furthermore there is a degradation of safety and well-being that goes along with these bad decisions. The reason this degradation has taken place is that transportation decision making has fallen prey to planning. In 1998 there was a federal change in the law that made highway projects subject to local planning. Unfortunately, the local planners have a bad habit of spending money like it belonged to people in other states and areas of the nation. The presumption was that the local planning committee was well aware of the reasons asphalt can cause prosperity and would never depart from the proven principles that have managed to create the engine of growth called the Interstate. Legions of bad projects are flowing out of the TDOT system. The latest disaster is Corridor K. It is a billion dollar behemoth that might produce 26 miles of road over difficult terrain. A lot of it will be used mostly by the 9000 people in Polk County. The cost of this road is about 56% of TDOT's yearly income. The state project selection process has degraded so badly that no one has the common sense left to notice that this is a bad project. Rural Planning Organizations are populated with politicians who are eager to spend other people's money, especially if those other people can not vote them out for a bad decision. Corridor K is an asphalt social justice project to make sure the east half of Polk County never again gets inconvenienced by a landslide over a critical arterial. The problem is that there is no social justice for the taxpayer. By the time it is built, it will be twice the cost of the ten lane upgrade running through Knoxville that can now serve 130,000 vehicles per day .

      After going through a couple of Interchange Justification Studies that still exist on the Internet, it is easy to see that TDOT is a master at picking between two or more projects but is utterly hopeless when it comes to detecting the possibility that neither should be built for the sake of financial stability of the state highway fund. The concept of fiduciary responsibility does not even apply to maintaining the solvency of the state highway fund. It is simply an elephant that is being eaten a little bit at a time.

      In 2012 there existed about 645 square feet of industrial floor space per industrial job. In all there was 268,823,958 square feet of industrial space in Tennessee. This is about 9.6 square miles. Before the state removed its Economic and Community Web Site, it was an easy matter to discover that there was about 84 square miles of industrial parks ready to go. This is the only local government activity where there is no realistic expectation of success. If we give the sheriff money he keeps people in jail. If we give the fire department money, it can turn into a fire truck. If we give the school money it will eventually turn into a classroom but if you give the business park $26 million dollars… We get a taxpayer furnished lottery ticket. The probability of success is declining with time. If everyone in Tennessee would stop building industrial parks, and could double their population every 44 years, we would not need another one for 137 years. We need jails now. We need schools now.


Posted 24 AUG 2012

      The TOUR Editor has been invited to discuss the Fifth Interchange on WHUB 1400 at 7:15 AM this Wednesday. August 29, 2010. The Morning Mayor Program, hosted by Dwight Henry will provide an opportunity to speak that was denied by the City, County and City Planning Commission on the Fifth Interchange. Expect to hear the following: The Fifth Interchange is bad public policy that both vandalizes the utility of the Interstate and creates additional financial instability of the state and federal highway trust funds. The Fifth Interchange will fail to bring additional industrial jobs to Putnam County just as it has failed other counties for the past 14 years. The Fifth Interchange will only compound our massive County per capita debt problem. Time permitting, the problem with the definition of a "connector" will be attempted. In 1956, the connector was everything, ramps plus the connector road, now TDOT is treating the word "connector" as if it only means "the road connecting the free Interchange." This change in definition may mean that the county will be on the hook for half of the $15.715,000 cost of the Interchange. All it takes is new people in charge since they don't go by their own written rules. TDOT is also violating their own guidelines by allowing Putnam County to be a part of the State Industrial Access program since the city can not even fill out the paperwork without knowing or exposing who the clients are for the industrial park. If we have time, I might mention a location where TDOT is letting a local government off with only 25% of the connector cost instead of 50%.


Posted 23 AUG 2012

      The short notice for the design meeting lightened the crowd at the Chamber of Commerce Building when TDOT put on a public meeting to discuss the design of the Fifth Interchange. Notably missing were Brian Paddock, lawyer for CARA and Ric Finch who had surgery on a knee the same day. Most of the land owners that were being condemned or expecting traffic problems were there. I guess the crowd might be fifty people. The time of the meeting also worked against County Commissioner Jonathan Williams because his business is still open past 6:00 PM. Never the less, he came in late and tried to check up on what he missed since many of the people there are in his district.

      The format of the meeting was a bit clunky. You ask a question and either the project manager or the TDOT Spokesperson pointed you to a person who ought to know the answer. There was vigilance for the odd kook who might try to get the group off on a tangent by making a speech. At the end, a person who was not identified loud enough so I could hear it approached the stage with a paper containing maybe a page of typed comments. He was told that the typed remarks should be read to the TDOT recorder who would take it down or summarize it. The gist of his comments were that there is no correlation between good roads and industrial jobs as witnessed by our own unfortunate experience with TRW and Russell Stover's. He cited data showing that the state is second in roads, fourth in business climate and 49th in education. He then went on to wonder what would happen if the same amount of money were spent on education. He received a sustained applause and the meeting quickly changed format to let everyone go to the person who was most likely to know the answer to his question.

      The TOUR editor was referred to the legislature to get an answer to the question why TDOT was not charging both the city and the county for the cost of the Interchange as required by Tennessee Law. The problem is that Kim Blaylock signed up for the Local Interstate Connector Program in her 2010 letter to TDOT. The law requires a fifty -fifty split between the state and the local government for all expenses, not just the connector road. Shortly before this letter was written, I attended a County Commission meeting that discussed the possibility that such a letter would commit the County to costs in building the interchange but the county attorney smoothed all of that out by stating that as long as there were no money amounts in the document, it provided no commitment to the state. The law states that you have to pay everything including unexpected cost overruns, so I don't know how anyone could come up with a fixed amount before the first shovel is turned.

      The TOUR editor also challenged the traffic numbers surrounding the business park. The question and answer format made it difficult to launch into the extensive research I have done on the traffic around real industrial projects like the VW plant, Spring Hill's GM plant, The proposed interchange in Robertson County, serving two industrial parks and the two speculative parks in Louden and Cocke county. The main point in challenging the traffic counts is to prevent overbuilding a project and spending much more than needed. The city still plans a three lane road coming off a four lane road at the interchange. These lanes make sense only if there actually is the traffic projected. I also asked for a confirmation that the traffic counts were based on a completed loop around Cookeville. I never got an answer to that question. My concerns about the traffic count were brushed off by stating that FHWA approved the report in 2001. The problem with that response was that in 2001, the project was for a connection with Corridor J. The character and nature of the project and the justification has changed from the crossing of an Appalachian Highway with I-40 to a justification based on the massive traffic created by the Industrial Park.

      Most of the questions asked were repeats of the ones that were brought up in the City Planning Commission earlier this year. There was a question about air brake restrictions and noise problems but there was no public answer to the question since you had to go to someone stationed around the room to re-ask the question. There was another question about traffic that would be directed down to the Burgess Falls Road area and I was never really sure if they meant the connection with Lee Seminary Road or the connection of Bennett Road with Burgess Falls Road. The answer should have been in the Amended Justification Study even though it was a bogus traffic projection.

      Someone asked why the road was limited access and the answer was that it was a FHWA requirement.

      Somebody asked about the impact on traffic on US-70 for the next five years. It was anticipated that the construction would cause a problem, but no recognition of the traffic count that will be allegedly generated by the Highlands Industrial Park. Once again this is not a part of the reason for the meeting since this is a city problem. The interchange Justification Amendment does discuss traffic and anticipated simultaneous improvements to US-70 around Pippen Road. I don't think anyone yet realizes that Bennett Road is to be taken over US-70 in the future. The massive traffic counts can only come if the entire loop is completed around Cookeville and that is very unlikely to happen within the next twenty years.

      Someone asked what the cost of the interchange is now. TDOT and its designer did not seem to know what the latest cost estimates were but they did quote the $13.6 million dollar figure that has since been moved up on the latest STIP to $15,715,000.

      The sound system in the Chamber of Commerce is very good, but you have to use it. When people don't come to the microphone, it is hard to hear their names and questions. The court recorder was chasing a few people around to get their names after the question and answer session.


Posted 18 AUG 2012

Will The Chamber Of Commerce Lobby Senator Corker to Stand on the FHWA to Back Off the Connector Road?

      On 22 AUG, Senator Corker is scheduled to be at the Chamber of Commerce to discuss something that is near and dear to the hearts of the Chamber of Commerce, but you have to be a member of the club to know exactly what. Apparently the COC has been working the phones to get a good turnout and even the Tea Party plans to be there but not to discuss the Fifth Interchange. I have heard they will wait outside of the building that was built with a lot of public money if the members-only policy is enforced.

      Both city and county are bumping up against a $26 million dollar investment/commitment in the Fifth Interchange and senator Corker is in a good position to help them out if they can get the senator to embarrass the Federal Highway Administration into reinstigating the business as usual policy of ignoring the connector road rules that TDOT has ignored for years.

      It is my personal opinion that this interchange is illegal because it violates Tennessee law because there is no local money in the cost of the interchange as required by Tennessee law. The County Executive signed up the county for the LIC or Local Interstate Connector Program to pay for half of the Connector Road but failed to volunteer for half of the interchange cost too. Senator Corker has perfectly timed the visit with an impending 18 to 25 cent property tax increase to help pay for schools that were ignored while the county was blowing money like crazy buying infrastructure for non-existent clients.

      Senator Corker is no fan of Earmarks so it is still a mystery how this is going to play out.


Posted 29 JULY 2012

      The latest revision of the Mine Lick Creek Interchange Justification Study, done By RPM Transportation Consultants LLC, has a shocking prediction of traffic suddenly surging at Willow Ave (SR135) and numerous soothing assertions that it can all be handled by the heroic intervention of modern traffic engineering plus a lot of taxpayer money. In just one year we are to expect that the traffic on Mine Lick Creek Road or the Bennett Road Extension will suddenly surge from its current traffic of about 1000 to 7100 vehicles per day. Over and over again the report assures us that this traffic is all going to come from the Highlands Industrial Park, the one in Putnam County, not the one in Louden County nor the ones in other states.

      This estimate, in the revised Interchange Justification Study, was cut down by RPM Transportation Consultants, LLC from an even more unlikely count provided by the industrial park designers, Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon. RPM, in a footnote on page 8/401, lightly criticized the engineers hired by the city of Cookeville for their use of the Institute of Traffic Engineers methodology that predicted about a third more traffic than RMP finally settled on. It seems that the method used took an average traffic generation based on area and land classification. RPM had to translate either 20,000 or 21,000 new generated trips into a traffic count on Bennett Road, this explains the even lower figure of 7100.

      TDOT provides traffic history on its web pages throughout the state and it was an easy matter to find out what 7100 vehicles per day looks or feels like in Putnam County by just slogging through the counters in the city to find something similar. The new traffic projections for Lee Seminary Road are much more than any counter on SR-111 in 2011. The counter (#142), nearly on the intersection of Burgess Falls Road (SR-135) and the relocated Lee Seminary Road, is only 66% of the RPM estimate of 2013 traffic. This mistake makes it 100% sure that there will be a future traffic "reduction" at SR-135 and Lee Seminary Road, but it won't be caused by a Fifth Interchange, it will be caused by an over estimated traffic count. See page 12/401 of the Amended Interchange Justification Study. If this estimate is right, there will be two vehicles on Lee Seminary Road running parallel with every five on I-40. If you average the traffic count on stations 17 and 19 along US 70, west of town, you get 6900.5 vehicles per day or 97% of the consultants estimate for the Bennett Road Extension. The only north south road close to the 7100 RPM estimate is on Old Kentucky Road just south of the Northeast Elementary Road. Station 172 has 6928 or 97.6% of the RPM estimate. The station closest to the northern terminus of Bennett Road extension and the intersection of US 70 shows 7752 AADT in 2011. This seems to say that The Bennett Road Extension will have about the same traffic on it as US-70 next year! There certainly will be a lot of right and left hand turns where Bennett Road Extension makes a Tee intersection with US-70.

      My first thought was to look at the old industrial park in Putnam County and check a counter there or at least nearby but there was no counter there. There was no counter near the new Highlands Industrial Park either. This suggests to me that the traffic at both locations is not worth counting. The only north south road close to the 7100 RPM estimate is on Old Kentucky Road just south of the Northeast Elementary Road or maybe South Walnut where it passes on the west side of the Fairgrounds in Cookeville.

      Since the Chamber of Commerce is so fond of using the word "Volkswagen," a look at counters around the Enterprise Drive location of the VW plant in Chattanooga would help understand what a real industry with over 2000 employees does to traffic counts. Last year there was also an additional attractor of traffic added nearby that would tend to make the counts higher, the Amazon distribution center. Hamilton County counters numbered 000071, south of the Volunteer Ordinance Works, Counter 000070 on Jersey Pike, on the railroad crossing, and counter 000296 on Jersey Pike north of the entrance to the VW plant and the Bonnie Oaks drive counter number 000165 were consulted via the TDOT web site. These four counters should catch any traffic going in or out of the VW plant. The four counters were averaged and it was found that the traffic in 2011 is nearly identical to what it was in 2001. Out of the last 11 years of records, 6 years posted losses and 5 years posted gains. The average move, up or down, was 443.5 vehicles per day and the net gain from 2000 to 2011 was only 77 vehicles per day. This objective data makes it difficult to maintain the presumption that a single but significant industrial development enhances traffic in any important way. The Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant made over 10,000 vehicles in the year of the last traffic count. A major investment was made in rail access to the site that probably suppressed the count somewhat.

      When nine counters around the VW plant are averaged, the traffic in 2011 is nearly identical to the counts in 2006. Interchange number nine, about two miles to the north, was not opened until 17 FEB 2010. The traffic growth at that interchange counter on Bonnie Oaks over five years since it was opened averages 1.55% per year growth. This makes sense because it tracks GDP growth in the area. Mysteriously, since the interchange was built, the average traffic count of the four counters around the old main entrance to VW showed that traffic went up two years and down three years. The interchange may have had a beneficial effect of lowering traffic which would lower revenue to TDOT immediately but promote, possible efficiency. This cannot be determined from the data collected by TDOT. Higher industrial efficiency usually shows up through increased GDP and personal income, but these data can only tell you if the trend is up or down, not what kind of spending on infrastructure money gets the best return.


Posted 27 JULY 2012

      At the Thursday meeting of the Southeast RPO both Commissioner Schroer and Steve Allen, the Project Planning Coordinator had hopeful messages to deliver to those who long for the day that a more reasoned approach to transportation issues might be tried, even accidentally. I did not get the idea that that the Southeast Rural Planning Organization was pleased. Their rabid support for the construction of Corridor K spilled over into the MPO, Metropolitan Planning Organization, that covers Chattanooga. The longer the Commissioner failed to mention the fate of the Billion dollar monstrosity, the more tension built for good news from the Commissioner. That good news did not come and Polk County Attorney, Denny Mobbs,launched into a rehash of the project since President Lyndon Johnson made it part of the Great Society. In less than diplomatic argumentation, Mr. Mobbs suggested that TDOT was stalling but the Commissioner cited Federal agencies as the main source of the delay. Commissioner Schroer also reminded the crowd that $14 million dollars had already been spent on this project in just planning studies.

      Mr. Mobbs was not to be deflected; he continued to insist that the problem was that TDOT was slow to spend the money. Commissioner Shorer countered with the need for more public pressure to be placed on local and regional legislators and mentioned Senator Corker and Senator Alexander. After all pretense of civility was trashed, I tried to interject the ethical argument involving the mass transfer of over half of TDOT's yearly budget to a single county. I stated that there was no right to live anywhere and to expect TDOT to bring you asphalt no matter what it cost. The arguments were so heated that the public comment section of the meeting was eliminated under the theory that everybody had pretty much made their public comments. The Commissioer tried to reengage the group but had to excuse himself to make another meeting.

      This left Kirk Johnson, a local Corridor K opponent and frequent Letter to the Editor contributor, off the stump until public comment was moved to after the Executive Meeting. Mr Johnson vigorously protested this because the published agenda left public comments until the end of the first meeting not the second. After the executive meeting was over, public comments were added back onto the proceedings but with a three-minute limit. Mr. Johnson then presented economic data that proved that TDOT would lose money on every inch of the road for every year it was maintained. No one spoke in favor of the Corridor K project. I used my three minutes to attack the idea that TDOT had consistently brought economic development to Tennessee through the use of roads using Bureau of Economic analysis data. One of the members of the RPO refuted my BEA data by saying that he still believed that roads brought economic development.


Posted 18 JULY 2012

      Interchanges change travel behavior and economic behavior. What TDOT would really get if this decision to build the speculative Fifth Interchange is based on transportation efficiency, would be less income, not more, at least early in the process. Most of the traffic on I-40 would not be attracted off of the exit. Those who found that the exit was a benefit to them, either in time or miles driven, would take the exit only if there was some kind of consistent advantage. If 8000 people suddenly found the exit to be of some value, it could mean that a high fraction of those 8000 vehicles would be driving fewer miles per day, not more. This, to some people, might suggest that TDOT needs to be more inefficient in their choices to keep their flow of money maintained. Over time, the increased travel efficiency would return to TDOT a dividend because travel efficiency generates more GDP and personal Income. The link between GDP and vehicle miles is quite strong and it gets even stronger if GDP is corrected for inflation.

      At 2.5 cents per vehicle mile, the new interchange would have to generate an additional 628,000,000 vehicle miles to get the $15.7 million investment back. In 2010, Tennessee generated 70,429 million VMT so the required increment of VMT would be less than one percent of the 2010 total. If TDOT borrowed the money to build the interchange at 4.5% and paid it back over 40 years, the yearly payment would be $853,187.40 This payment in terms of VMT would be 93,436 vehicles miles traveled per day required to sustain the cost of the construction. If this interchange generated 20,000 trips per day as stated in the Amended Interchange Justification Study, all 20,000 vehicles would have to generate an average of 4.67 miles each every day to successfully pay off this "investment." If the Highlands Industrial Park got a VW plant with 2000 employees, it could draw them in from 23 miles around to satisfy the 93,436 vehicle miles per day if they worked 7 days a week. This would have to be new traffic, not attracted traffic and this would have to be vehicle miles traveled in addition to those already traveled to get to work or any other activity. The overblown and improbable estimates of travel in the Intercahnge Justification Ammendment do not help blunt the reality of this massive loss of taxpayer money, especially when you consider that the money spent by the county and the city is not even included in this analysis. This industrial park does not even have a client to attract the alleged 20,000 trips per day.

     The cost of speculative interchanges are socialized in the vain hope that the new jobs and capital investment will someday, somehow turn into additional GDP or personal income. That GDP will then turn into more money into the State and Federal Highway Fund. Nationwide it takes about $4.33 of GDP to equal one Vehicle Mile Traveled. In the State of Tennessee, it takes about $2.76 to create a Vehicle mile traveled. It would take $1.73 Billion dollars of additional GDP just to get the Highway Trust Fund money back for the Fifth Interchange because the average gain by TDOT on a vehicle mile traveled is only 2.5 cents. The 2010 GDP figure for the state would have to go up 0.9% to cover this "investment." Real per capita GDP would have to rise for everyone in the state by $267.41. Real state GDP has been falling an average of 1.52% every year in Tennessee since 2004. Even if you continue to insist that speculative interchanges pay for themselves, the evidence is that other speculative public policy matters are dragging down the growth of GDP at nearly twice the rate that it would have to grow to break even. The state must invest in transportation decisions that increase productivity, not decrease or let productivity remain flat. These speculative and gratuitous interchanges are the moral equivalent of buying lottery tickets to pay the rent.


Posted 04 JUNE 2012


1)How much money has the city and the county spent on this project in the last ten years?

2)If this is such a strong economic development tool, Why doesn't everyone just build an extra interchange? How many jobs has the county saved since getting the new industrial park?

3)What is the difference between Putnam County economic evelopment policies and the four Tennessee counties that have had an increase in industrial jobs since 2001?

4)Does the business park have any clients yet?

5)Recent economic data on Construction in Place has shown a strong surge in industrial construction over what was going on last year, do you see any construction in the Highlands Industrial Park that involves private capital?

6)If the electrical lines, gas lines and the water lines in the industrial park have no customers, how will the city pay for the cost of the construction within the park?

7)Why does the city need a sub-station in this business park since there are no customers?

8) How long should we wait until building a speculative building in the Industrial Park?

9)If interchanges create industrial jobs, why are industrial jobs dropping in cities like Memphis, Knoxville, Bristol and Chattanooga?

10)How will the construction of Bennett Road reduce the average time or distance to the hospital or shopping in Cookeville?

11)Why did the city and the county get a dual certificate for the park, one for commercial use and one for industrial use?

12)Are thee any plans for a motel or gas station on the new interchange?

13)Has anyone estimated the cost of the annexation?

14) City Manager Shipley gave qualified assurances that the Bennett Road Extension would not cause a tax increase but did not exclude the fact that some other problem might cause a tax increase in the future. Are you aware of any future costs that the city might be required to handle?

15) How did the city handle the $9.7 million shortfall in the pension plan that was in the 2011 audit?

16) Will the additional taxes earned from the approximately 135 families in the annexation area pay for the new fire station and all of its equipment?

17)Why isn't the state enforcing the Interstate Connector Act which says that the local governments that request an interchange are required to pay for half of all costs, not just road costs. Do you have written assurance from TDOT that they will not enforce this provision of the law? TCA 54-5-507.

54-5-507. State-local agreements. (a) The department will receive proposals from local agencies, either city or county, for the construction of a connector. Proposals shall contain an agreement on the part of the local agency to participate in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the cost of the project, and to maintain the connectors at its own expense after completion of the project. The department shall receive the proposals on the basis of coordinated development of access to the various sections of interstate highway routes or fully controlled access highways as they become open to traffic, and in accordance with established departmental criteria for priority of construction and in accordance with the availability of funds.

18)Can you give assurances that electricity, gas and water bills won't go up as a result of this interchange and associated annexation?

19)Do you think the County will reconsider its position on the Fifth Interchange and return to help finance the half of the project?

20)Do you think this drawdown in Cookeville's credit capacity will change the city's credit rating or impact the cost of borrowing for this project?


31 MAY 2012

Ric Finch and Brian Paddock let everyone know how opposed the Cookeville Area Residents Association was to the Bennett Road Construction this morning at 7:20 AM. Finally, the Herald Citizen version of how the meeting went is being debunked. (TOUR EDITOR COMMENT: The three minute timer that was shown to everyone pretty much turned the whole proceeding into a hick town version of the Gong Show. A lot of people preferred not to be told to sit down if they ran over time and the warning about "getting off the subject" was not understood by many who found that they could not talk about land use and zoning at the same time since discussions on zoning would be in a later meeting. The contempt for public opinion was on full display. The Planning Commission has learned well that a three minute limit keeps lots of people from even going to the County Commission meetings too, let alone speaking.) Ric Finch pointed out forcefully that complex issues surrounding this project could not be boiled down into three minute sound bites, even by people who were used to public speaking.

Brian Paddock, legal counsel for CARA, was able to prove that the public meeting was not for imput but to ratify a project that was already underway.

Next week, we may hear James Mills speak on Dwight Henry's Morning Mayor Program for the city in this matter, but the exact date is not yet known.


21 MAY 2012

      Back when Volkswagon was lured into Chattanooga, there were lots of versions of exactly what it cost to get them there. According to the University of Tennessee, the total cost of all subsidies was $577,417,694. If you divide the local government portion of $219,247,399 by the 2008 population estimate of Hamilton County, the average person gave up $666.99 each to get the VW plant and the hope that at long last they would not have to worry about losing jobs in Hamilton County.

      The city of Cookeville is nearing this amount when the cost of the land, the infrastructure and the road are added together and divided by the estimated population of 30,435. Once the sum of all city costs goes above $20,299,841, we get the booby prize on record payouts for a questionable investment. The total of the amount spent on the Highlands Business Park is unknown because the cost of law suits, advertising costs at the chamber of commerce, the cost of pavement pilgrimages to the governor's office, subscriptions to Site Selection Magazine, sink hole studies, about $17,600 per year in lost city tax revenue and meetings plus travel to get the Certificates of Need for the state and hammering out the right-of-way and design changes with TDOT are not disclosed. If you add the city cost of the land which was about $2.5 million and the cost of the Infrastructure as $7.2 million, you are about half way there. The final road expense and the annexation expense are still mysteries, but James Mills thinks the road is going to be $8 million. If you live in the city, you are going to get double dipped because the county is laying on their fraction of the cost on too. If you put the cost at $17.7 million if you live in Cookeville and $9.7 million if you live in the county, the combined cost is $715.69 per person. This is 7% over the per capita cost to local governments to get the VW plant in Chattanooga.


Dear CARA Members,

      Today I attended the Planning Commission's monthly business meeting, held Thursday noon prior to their Monday formal voting meeting. It is at the Thursday meeting that they go over the agenda for the upcoming public meeting. Cynics might say it is at this business meeting that they decide how they will vote at the official meeting. But I don't think it is that simple. City Planner James Mills informed the nine Commission members of the matters the City wants them to consider, decide and vote on at the official meeting. While many Commission members will no doubt be inclined to vote in favor of the City's requests, this business meeting gives them all time to consider matters, perhaps talk to people, and come to their personal conclusions prior to the official meeting when issues will be voted on and finalized.

      Public comment is not allowed at this business meeting. However, at the conclusion of the meeting, I was permitted to distribute a letter from CARA to all the Commission members (copy attached, FYI).

      At the official meeting of the Planning Commission this coming Monday, May 21, there will be time for public comment. And there are matters of concern that CARA members need to speak out on.

1) City is asking the Planning Commission to approve certain amendments to its Major Street Plan. These amendments have to do with the Bennett Road Extension, and --if I understand it correctly-- the City cannot proceed with the Bennett Road Extension project until these changes in the Major Street Plan are approved by the Commission.

2) City is also asking the Commission to approve certain amendments to its Future Land Use Plan, again, amendments that have to do with the Bennett Road Extension. Many of the changes are zoning changes. They want an area on the north side of the new I-40-interchange-to-be zoned Commercial-Industrial Mixed Use....a change from the present zoning, which is (I think) Single Family Residential. They also want to extend commercial zoning from US-70W south along the Bennett Road Extension at least as far as the RR track, possibly further.

      As you can readily see, changing from Single Family Residential to Commercial-Industrial can have a huge negative impact on folks living in these areas.

      One of the striking aspects of all this is that County residents have no representation on the Cookeville Planning Commission, yet the Commission is making decisions that affect folks living in the County and not in the City. That is grotesquely unfair.

      As concerned citizens, what can you do? Attend the Commission meeting Monday and speak out. If enough people speak out on the Bennett Road Extension, and speak out with cogent reasoning, Commission members votes may be swayed.

      Commission Chairman Jim Stafne noted that the Monday meeting will be a public hearing, with public comment invited, but that he will insist that comments stick to the subject. And speakers will not be allowed to ramble on without end.

      So if you want to have an impact, here's what you need to do:

1) Speak logically about the Bennett Road Extension, stating why you think it is a bad idea, giving reasons. Think about what you want to say in advance, even practice it a couple of times.

2) Speak to why the connector road will not be good for our community.

3) If you do not live in the area but are still opposed to a useless road, then mention to the Commission members that you don't live in the way of the road...your comment will have more weight this way.

4) Issues to point out:

      --Road will not help the new business park on the south side of I-40.

      --TDOT's traffic flow projections indicate that the road is not justified.

      --The City has not adequately explored the possibility that the FHWA "requirement" for this connector road can be waived.

      --City finances will be negatively impacted by this project. A tax increase and/or a bond issue may be necessary to pay for it. City's borrowing capacity will be used up.

5) And when you get up to speak, please identify yourself as a member of CARA (if you're on this mailing list, you a member), as that will give our organization more influence.

      If you don't feel like speaking out in public, talk to a Commission member before the meeting begins. You can also register your disapproval of the road by wearing an orange ribbon....they will remember that from the Corridor J road fight. We defeated that unwanted road. Now it is time for CARA members to make another effort for the good of our City and our neighbors homes.

      I look forward to seeing you at the meeting Monday. Cookeville Planning Commission is meeting Monday, May 21, at 5:30 PM in the City Council chamber in City Hall.

      Thank you for supporting what is best for our community.


CARA's Letter to the City Commission


299 Allen Hollow Rd.., Cookeville, TN 38501

16 May 2012

To the members of the Planning Commission:

      The membership of the Cookeville Area Residents Association (CARA) believes our City government is on the verge of making a major mistake: the building of the Bennett Road Extension. Here is why we believe this is ill-advised:

1) Bennett Road Extension, if built, will serve no useful purpose. The new business park lies on the south side of I-40; virtually all traffic to the business park will come by I-40 or by SR-111 and then I-40. Regardless of whether business park traffic enters the park via the existing I-40 interchange at Burgess Falls Rd. or via a new interchange at Mine Lick Creek Rd., business park traffic needs no connection north to US 70W, a road no business park traffic will ever take.

In 2006 TDOT released their Needs Assessment study* for a loop road around Cookeville that included the route now planned for the Bennett Road Extension. They found that neither present nor projected traffic flow justified such a route. Furthermore, they found there to be essentially no economic benefit. And they acknowledged in their report that the "citizens were almost unanimous in their opposition" to such a road.

In a recent meeting with CARA representatives**, City officials stated that the road was not needed for the foreseeable future, "probably not in our lifetimes" said one.

2) Bennett Road Extension, if built, will strain City finances. When asked how the City planned to raise the $10 million dollars needed to built the road, raise taxes or float a bond issue, City Manager Jim Shipley responded "probably a little bit of both". At a later date he told CARA representatives that he now believed the City could pay for the road without raising taxes, but that it would "absorb most of the City's debt capacity". What if the inevitable cost overruns occur? What if the City needs money for extending services into annexed areas, a new fire station or other major projects? Having the City's debt capacity used up is poor financial management. Apparently Mr. Shipley agrees, as he was quoted by the H-C (Apr. 27) saying "There are a lot of other things we could do with that money besides build a road."

3) Bennett Road Extension is not supported by the majority of the Cookeville area residents. At a 2004 TDOT public hearing on a proposed road that included the Bennett Road Extension route, over 95% of the 2136 public comments opposed the road. At a 2007 TDOT public hearing on the Northern Connector (the TDOT name for the Bennett Road Extension), 57% of the public comment opposed this connector road. Unfortunately, at the recent "community meeting" (April 26), the City did not allow any opportunity for people to state their support or opposition for the road concept.

*TDOT Needs Assessment PIN #107381.00, prepared by TDOT Project Planning Division, April 2006. CARA can provide a copy of this report to any Planning Commission member who would like one.

**On Friday April 20, CARA members met with City Manager Jim Shipley, City Planner James Mills, City Engineer Greg Brown, and Bennett Road Extension Project Manager Melinda Kiefer. With the possible exception of Ms. Kiefer, everyone present agreed the road was not needed. City officials reiterated what they have said many times before, i.e., that they would rather not build this road, but feel forced to because TDOT told them they could not have the new interchange if they did not build the connector road.

4) Building a new road hurts many people. Generally homes must be razed; sometimes homes are not razed but merely ruined by a noisy roadway a few tens of feet away. Farmland is paved over. Family farms are cut in half. People's lives are disrupted. We accept this price when we believe a new road is for the greater good of the community, but if it cannot be convincingly demonstrated that a greater good will be served, it is simply immoral to hurt families in this manner.

5) Neither City nor County governments actually want to build the Bennett Road Extension. This has been indicated time and again in official City and County resolutions to TDOT, by public statements made by City and County officials, as well as private statements.

      So why then is the City poised to build this road in spite of all the negatives? The answer is simple: they desperately want the new I-40 interchange at Mine Lick Creek Rd. and they have been told by TDOT that they cannot have the new interchange unless they build the road. TDOT says it is an FHWA requirement. Preliminary research by CARA's legal counsel suggests that FHWA policy allows for some exceptions. CARA members believe our City officials have failed to explore directly with FHWA to find out what current FHWA policy requires and under what conditions exceptions can be made to normal policy requirements. We believe that there is a way out of this requirement of a connector road to the north. Elsewhere in Tennessee new interstate interchanges have been built -and recently-- without connector roads on both sides.

      Regardless of what FHWA may actually require, CARA members hold that building the Bennett Road Extension is a mistake. The benefits of the Bennett Road Extension are highly speculative, but the damage that will be done by the road is definitive. It is very wrong to harm the residents along this route when there is no demonstrable need for the road or benefit to be derived from it. It is especially wrong to do so when public commentary shows that the majority of our area residents oppose a road along this route. If not building the Bennett Road Extension means not getting the new interchange, this would not be the end of progress and growth in Cookeville. As Mr. Joe Albrecht said (H-C, Jan. 24, 2010), "The business park will survive without the fifth interchange…" Not building the Bennett Road Extension is the right thing to do.

      We urge the Planning Commission not to modify the Major Street Plan or Future Land Use Plan to accommodate the Bennett Road Extension.


                                          Richard C. Finch

                                          CARA CoChair


16 MAY 2012

      It is the belief of the engineering staff at TOUR that this road is beyond useless. First of all it is another north south road. It is settled highway engineering practice since the times of the Romans that a road system needs arterials at right angles to each other to optimize land access and provide for unexpected difficulty along the nearest path between a traffic generator and a traffic attractor. We know today that major roads can be about a mile or two apart to provide mobility and land access inside an urban area. The city of Cookeville has been ignoring basic traffic engineering for years. In October of 2010, even after hiring outside engineering talent from Knoxville to help them with their priorities, they threw out that advice and decided to make the Mine Lick Creek Road and Fifth Interchange their number one priority. History is about to repeat itself when the next planning commission brings forth the new Bennett Extension road plan.

      We already have a system of north-south primary arterials that are congested: Willow and Jefferson Avenue first come to mind. The reason they are congested is that they are used mainly for land access. This means that the businesses along the streets are attractors for traffic and the resulting traffic has fewer than normal chances for diversion away from congestion. This is no minor matter when it comes to fire and emergency medical services. To prove how bad this decision is, try to imagine the small number of people who will, after Bennett Road is constructed, be able to get to the hospital faster. This group of people would have to live south of the Interstate and have direct access to Bennett Road. Over time, the time to get to the hospital from any residence in the vicinity of the construction area will decline as planned future roads that will cross Bennett Road will develop stop signs or traffic lights. The fact that TDOT does not have traffic counts on Bennett road tells a lot about the importance of this road.

      The city plans to build another fire station close to the annexed area containing Bennett Road Extension because the time to respond from existing stations will be unacceptable. The building, the people and the equipment cost of this extra fire station is just another unfortunate consequence to the quest for the Fifth Interchange.

      The only complete east west arterial going through Cookeville is highway 70. It is hardly worthy of being called an arterial since the road, close to the city, is being used mostly for land access. In 2011 the traffic count west of Cookeville and on US 70 was 7752 per day. That does not sound too bad until you realize that it is only a two lane road. It still has mail boxes along the road. In the morning, it is best that you don't need to turn left since finding a space between cars long enough to maneuver safely is getting to be a problem. TDOT does have a plan to upgrade US 70, but it will be a long and slow process and the city is taking no obvious action to control growth or encroachment along the road. The old traffic studies for the original Fifth Interchange already reveal that I-40 is being used as the only real primary east-west arterial going through the south edge of town.

      The question about the Bennett Road Extension is in two parts: Should we build it as part of a loop around the city and should we build it just to compete with the other twenty three industrial parks already on the Interstate in Tennessee? Sometimes a loop road can help when providing primary arterials at right angles is difficult to achieve but before thinking that ring roads solve all problems, look at the rings around Charlotte North Carolina. The city looks like a bull's eye with multiple rings and difficult traffic. The planned Cookeville loop is too far out and unlikely to perform as originally intended. The effort to get the cost down has already degraded its utility to a 45 MPH road with many future connections to provide land access instead of mobility. Making its main function land access can also increase the future cost of converting it to a limited access road. At a lower design speed, the western limb of the loop will no longer attract traffic off of SR 11 at the same fraction that if would have as a limited access road. The idea that the eastern part of the loop will be a road like SR111, with a design speed that is much higher than the western portion of the loop is silly. About 72 percent of people who live in Putnam County work in Putnam County according to census data. The most probable benefit that The Bennett Road Extension will have is a way to get out of Putnam County. Only those who live near Bennett Road will have better access to the Interstate, most people will just use their old routes to work and shopping or whatever they need to do.

      What is technically wrong with this proposal does not matter to the City of Cookeville since the Fifth Interchange is a shameless raid on the Highway Trust Fund to provide a potential benefit other than the mobility that the Interstate would normally provide. These raids have been going on for over twenty years through a program called enhancements and this interchange will be another enhancement that barely has anything to do with mobility. There is an overarching presumption that the goods manufactured or the goods that are raw material need the mobility worse than the people who might work at the factory.

      Mobility is the means and method of providing productivity to the fleets of trucks that carry cargo and the people who need to go somewhere in a reasonable amount of time. The farther you can go, the more opportunities are created. Mobility allows people, employers and businesses to connect with each other over large distances and thus generates the potential for larger hiring pools and larger job opportunity. It is the increase in productivity that brings the economic benefits from the Interstate system, or any transportation system, not the dirt and asphalt. It is the loss of mobility via degradation of utility that is an ongoing threat to our economic well being. By 2030, TDOT plans on the Interstate between Bristol and Memphis to be running at a D level of service. You may also expect to see a European method of capacity enhancement called variable speed limits. It won't make more lanes available, but it will cause the existing pavement to be used to a greater degree. My guess is that this will translate into about a 52 mile per hour average speed. We are betting that the Interstate will never be overwhelmed but that is not going to happen unless things change drastically.

      When the gas tax was first enacted, it was popular because there was a perception that the people who most used the roads used the most gas and were paying the most money. The feeling that people were getting roughly what they were paying for was hard to maintain under a policy of socialization of costs that quickly took hold. The practice of socializing the costs created large classes of losers at the expense of a few winners. If everyone in Putnam County, in 2011, paid an average of $300 transportation taxes per year to TDOT for access and mobility, TDOT would get $21.6 million dollars. The City of Cookeville would get back from TDOT $726,496 in gasoline taxes. Putnam County got back $2,207,083. The two local governments get back about one dollar for every $7.36 that we send to TDOT. Cookeville adds about one dollar for every gas tax dollar to maintain roads. The county adds about three dollars for every eight that it gets in gas taxes. Each then can and do get the occasional grant for more transportation activity. We have no real financial ability to build this loop around the city and it will not be easy to support building the little piece that they currently plan. It will cost more that the total of all of the sales taxes that the city took in last year and if you consider a minor overrun in cost, it will cost about the same as a year of city police protection.

      Socializing costs has a powerful effect on what can be done but it has no power to discover what should be done with transportation dollars. Overinvestment in bad transportation projects is more probable than overinvestment in bad stocks like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because you at least have a quarterly report with stocks and mutual funds. There is no profit or loss statement with transportation investments. You are free to imagine large or small benefits, direct or indirect benefits, delayed and immediate benefits. The calculus of imagined benefits has no master or means of reasonable control. I have never seen an apology for a mistake because the way to detect a mistake has been totally wiped out of process of project selection. To the extent that a good system ever existed, it was perceived by many to be cruel and lacking in social justice.

      The first sign of a string of bad transportation investments is that you experience congestion, delay and a decline of mobility. The distances between vehicles decline. It starts taking you longer to make daily treks to the store or work. Speed limits fall so that more vehicles per hour can use the same pavement. Accidents either increase or the rate of accidents fail to respond to the usual measures. People in urban areas become experts in discovering alternate ways home or to work. The local government tries to get more use out of the existing pavement by opening High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes or High Occupancy Tolling might be tried. Transportation projects shrink in length and dollar size with a concurrent loss of administrative efficiency. When people refuse to pay more taxes, the government responds with tolls. The government becomes mysteriously broke and unable to do anything but maintain what it already has. Once money is wasted on bad transportation projects, the projects continue to absorb maintenance even if it has little or no traffic.

      Most people believe that we still have a system where the people who get the most benefit should or are paying the most money, but the socialization of costs prevents that from happening. For instance, let's take Corridor K in Polk and Bradley County. The latest trimmed-down version assumes costs at only a Billion dollars. The length of the road is not yet settled. Let's say that it is 26 miles. How could the people who would benefit the most possibly pay the most? Socializing the cost among over 6.4 million Tennesseans allows the project to be built when, if left to local sums of money, it would never happen. The combined population of Polk and Bradley County in 2010 was 115,788. To get the primary benefit of the road, you have to be near it or at least drive on it. In the Ducktown area of Polk County a traffic count was about 5286 on the road that Corridor K will totally or partially replace. If everyone in the state sent them $156.25 and there were no cost overruns, there would be no financial problem with Corridor K but, a family of five might have a problem with sending the state a check for $781.25 and still be expected to keep buying gasoline. If you take a Billion dollars and divide it among the population of Bradley and Polk County, it might be imagined that they would all receive a windfall of $8636.47 in transportation benefit. The problem with a windfall is that it is not a true windfall unless and until you convert it to something you want or need. Transportation benefit is no different from any other need or want. It is only worth what you will pay for it or what you can be forced to pay for it. The only ubiquitous benefit in transportation is mobility.

      Let's say that the State can get three cents per vehicle mile on a daily traffic count of 5286 vehicles. That would be $1.5 million per year in gas tax income from both tourist and people who live in Bradley and Polk County. It would take 49 million a year to finance this Billion dollar extravaganza at 4.5%, and over 50 years. The 6.4 million people in Tennessee would lose $47.5 million dollars per year every year for the next 50 years. These losses show up or fail to show up as a lost opportunity to do real mobility projects.

      Yard sales and trash cans prove that people frequently buy stuff they don't need, or they thought they needed or thought someone else needed. The problem with bad pavement purchases is that it cost about as much to tear it out and start over as it does to build it in the first place. No one ever apologizes either. Eventually, the pavement will be used, though the rare case of abandonment does occur. In the state of Tennessee Industrial Access program, a cost-benefit formula was proposed to sort out the good projects from the bad projects. The yearly projected payroll plus the yearly expected tax benefit was the benefit. The yearly cost of borrowing the money, principle plus interest, was the cost. Roads are perpetuated by the highway trust fund and even if the local government agrees to take care of the maintenance, it is likely that all or a substantial part of that maintenance is going to come from the highway trust fund as a result of the local government distribution that comes by law every year. In our case, there is no client so there is no payroll nor are there any taxes from the invisible client. Thus the benefit to cost ratio is zero. The actual cost cannot be calculated either because we don't know what the final cost will be in eight years, when the full road is fully built to FHWA specifications. The $10 million dollar part of it is just the starter road that the FHWA plans to suffer and permit right now. If the total admitted cost of the industrial park were $34 million dollars and that was financed at 4.5% over 20 years, the state would consider this project a break even project if it hired only 64 people at an average salary of $40, 831. Putnam County will lose all of those 64 jobs at the current rate in only 2.3 months.

      The employment payroll certainly provides a source of transportation funds. People buy gas but what if the new industry hires all local people who are already buying gas to work at another location? There would be no incremental benefit to the fund to take care of the incremental alleged benefit. What if a person takes a cut in pay to get closer to home? This state sponsored formula is better than nothing but it has a lot of assumed consequences that don't always end up helping the supply of money to the state highway trust fund. Building for mobility has a proven history of improving economic well being. The effect is immediate an lasts as long as the road capacity is maintained. The benefit of the new industrial park new that can't get a client damages the taxpayer every day. Industrial parks are overbuilt. In 2008 there were 1275 of them. The state took that Economic and Community Development web site down but the TVA has a similar one that has over 500 sites in Tennessee plus others in other states. It is impossible that they would all get a client. There are at least twenty eight for sale in Putnam County. There are at least three on the Interstate already. If the floor space of available manufacturing buildings, with infrastructure, in Putnam County was added up it would be over 21 acres.


11 MAY 2012

Fresh Thinking on the Federal Role in Goods Movement

by Robert Poole

     In the last six weeks, two large and very important policy studies have crossed my desk. One, from RAND Corporation, takes a fresh and much-need look at the federal role in goods movement. The second, from the National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFEP), looks at alternative ways to pay for a new federal freight infrastructure program. Since trucks on highways play such a major role in goods movement, the scope of both reports is limited mostly to truck freight infrastructure.

     “A Federal Role in Freight Planning and Finance” is the 82-page RAND report, written by Sandra Rosenbloom and Martin Wachs. ( After providing some context about the challenges facing the U.S. supply chain network, the authors carry out a thoughtful discussion of what an appropriate federal government role might be. Their starting point is to list what they see as consensus views on policy objectives for a new federal policy on freight:

  Improve freight planning efforts (at all levels of government);

  Provide “some” financial assistance to local and intermodal projects with sustainable revenue sources;

  Condition federal support on specific performance measures;

  Require supported projects to have substantial user-pay components;

  Reform regulatory barriers;

  Respond to situations where the market alone will not yield the best solution.

     grandiose than many freight advocates have put forward recently (thus far, with no success).

     Most of the report then sketches out four policy elements of a federal goods-movement strategy that is responsive to these six objectives. The first of these, to which they devote by far the most attention, is a new federal freight capital investment program. Unlike most previous proposals of this sort, theirs is premised on using a sophisticated form of benefit/cost analysis (BCA) to

  Determine whether the project makes sense at all (benefits exceed cost);

  Disaggregate the BCA(Benefit-Cost Analysis) to see which stakeholders incur which costs and benefits (and assign costs accordingly);

  Determine what portion of the benefits is national in scope; and

  Allocate federal funding only for that portion of the project.

     They go to some lengths explaining how this might be done, and I agree that such a process makes sense, though I remain skeptical that it could be implemented in such a way as to prevent the kind of earmarking and politicization that we have seen in so many federal surface transportation programs.

     Their other three components are equally valuable, but to some extent politically challenging. They are to:

Investigate and reform goods-movement regulations (such as bans on longer-combination vehicles and inconsistent truck size and weight standards, even on the Interstates);

Encourage and increase user-based pricing (such as truck-only toll lanes and truck VMT fees); and,

Improve freight data, information, and agency capacity.

     I’m supportive of all three of these, since they would be steps toward a higher-productivity and better-funded goods movement system.

     The NCFRP report is a detailed look at “New Dedicated Revenue Mechanisms for Freight Transportation Investment.” It is NCFRP Report 15, researched by a team led by freight experts Tioga Group and available from the TRB website at:

     The research team screened a wide variety of possible dedicated revenue sources for highway freight infrastructure improvements, but narrowed the scope down to three: a fuel tax surcharge, a VMT fee, and an increased federal registration fee on Class 4-8 (heavy) trucks. When they got into the mechanics of how each of these could be implemented, and what the implementation and collection costs would be, things got complicated pretty fast.

     For example, if you increase the diesel tax across the board and use all the revenue for highway freight infrastructure improvements, then all diesel fuel users would pay, even small trucks and the small but growing share of diesel-powered automobiles that would not benefit from the improvements. So you would need some way for operators of passenger vehicles and small trucks to get refunds. If you instead increase both diesel and gasoline taxes at the federal level, the need for refunds (and the cost of the refund system) grows immensely. There are also many trade-offs in devising a heavy-truck VMT fee system. An increased federal truck registration fee turns out to be the simplest, but fails most tests of being a user charge. Another complication is whether to include or exclude service trucks (tow trucks, cement mixers, etc.), which are not really part of the freight logistics system but pay the same diesel taxes as other heavy trucks.

     When they crunched the numbers to compare variants of the three approaches at various scales, they reached some provocative conclusions. Their baseline model involves a target, in each case, of generating gross federal revenue of $5 billion per year. They first adjusted the revenue for behavioral effects, such as some trucks converting from diesel to gasoline to avoid the new tax, and some freight shifting from truck to rail. Then they estimated implementation and collection costs for each variant of each of the three revenue sources (e.g., whether it applies only to the largest trucks, Class 7 and 8, or also to Class 4 through 6, and whether it applies to all trucks, including service trucks).

     Some of the findings will surprise most observers. For example, the per-vehicle implementation costs for a dedicated diesel or gas-tax with a truck ID device (to identify those charged the higher rate) is estimated at a (one-time) cost of $100 per truck. That compares with $250 to $500 per truck for an on-board unit for the VMT fee alternatives, but compared to the cost of buying a Class 8 rig, that’s pretty small. Second, the large differences in implementation and collection costs at the $5 billion annual revenue are much smaller when the program is sized to yield $20 billion per year in gross revenue. The report’s Table 61 shows that for the $20 billion/year program size, the difference between net federal revenue and industry cost is 1% for diesel tax with rebates for non-freight vehicles, 2-3% for diesel tax with truck ID units, and between 6% and 10% for the truck VMT fee alternatives. To be sure, the VMT fees cost more to collect than diesel taxes, but this is nothing like the figures the trucking industry has been using to argue against tolling (20 to 30%, based mostly on backward-looking 20th-century data that includes large fractions of old-fashioned cash collection at toll booths).

     I don’t have space to go into more of this fascinating report, but I commend both reports to your attention as first-rate pieces of work.



11 MAY 2012

      Anyone who has driven to Memphis has noticed the signs along I-40 that announce that there are six exits to Jackson, Tennessee. You might consider this a tourist gimmick dreamed up by members of the Chamber of Commerce because there seems to be no transportation related purpose to the sign. Bragging about how many exits you have seems to be a fad that has taken over the Economic Development Community in Tennessee. This fact speaks volumes to those who believe that more exits must translate into more industry and more jobs. Nothing encouraging can be found in the facts. Madison County, with its city of Jackson and its six interchanges, has lost more jobs than Putnam County according to Bureau of Economic Analysis Records. It is possible to look at the employment data and conclude that interchanges are causing job loss rather than preventing it. The theory that more interchanges mean more industrial job losses is just as silly as its opposite because both try to make a complex situation be explained by a simple rule.

      During the period from 2001 to 2010, the BEA records that the entire state lost 149,858 industrial jobs. That is about twice the population of Putnam County. Most of the losses were in large urban areas that have plenty of interchanges. No one yet has explained in classic Chamber of Commerce speak why this urban asphalt is losing its magic. Davidson County lost nearly 8 percent of Tennessee industrial jobs, Hamilton County, with its VW plant that we all paid more than $240 million dollars for, has lost about 5.5 percent. Knox County lost 5.4 percent of total jobs and it did not even get a VW plant and it recently had an upgrade of interchanges along I-40 as well as additional lanes. Bradley County will be getting a new connector in a few years but they have already lost 4,391 industrial jobs in the last nine years of BEA records. Bradley County is next to Meigs County, which is another county that gained jobs but does not have an Interstate. Claiborne County was another winner with 483 more industrial jobs gained than in 2001. They don't have any Interstates in Claiborne County either. Cheatham County which gained 216 jobs in nine years only has one I-40 Interchange. Perhaps we should dig up some dirt there and put their magic dirt on our interchanges? If we get caught stealing, we could just plead insanity or that we were practicing the Economic Development religion.


10 MAY 2012

      If you spend too much time being marinated in the economic development speak of the Chamber of Commerce, you will find yourself being brainwashed into believing that more interchanges mean more manufacturing jobs. The data however refutes this, at least in Tennessee. It takes no computer research to conclude this since there were more jobs per interchange in 1979 than at any time since about 1965. Since 1979 the number of manufacturing jobs has been going down and the number of interchanges has been going up. The Bureau of Economic Analysis keeps tabs on jobs and manufacturing jobs on a county by county basis and from 2001 to 2010, only four Tennessee Counties actually gained manufacturing jobs, Cheathan, Claiborne, Meigs and Fayette County. Even the Federal Highway Administration has bought this myth hook line and sinker. It even sneaks into interchange justification studies and is quoted as a reason for having an interchange and preparing for a surge of traffic as soon as manufacturing boots up to the new interchange.

      Even though manufacturing jobs are disappearing nearly everywhere, the dollar amount of compensation paid by Tennessee manufacturers has shrunk only about 2% from 2001 to 2009. This does not mean that fewer people are taking home more money because inflation has not been factored into those data. From 2001 to 2010, a dollar lost 80 percent of its purchasing power. The myth of the long term reliability of manufacturing jobs still enjoys an undeserved reverence both in the law, which allows for condemnation to build industrial parks, and at Chamber of Commerce circles where county commissioners and mayors are tricked into the latest and greatest sure-fire policy to land another factory.

      Tennessee manufacturing compensation was $20,564,620,000 in 2001 but it fell to $20,127,391,000 in 2010. If that were adjusted for 2001 dollars, the compensation in 2010 should have been $25,367,815,000 to keep even with inflation. This represents nearly $4.97 billion dollars not paid as wages in 2010 compared to what was paid in 2001. When The state paid massive subsidies to VW, the economic development claim by UT Knoxville analysts and proponents was that it would have an impact of $511.1 million per year in personnal income. The ratio of what was lost all over the state and what was allegedly to be gained gained by VW activity is nearly 10 to one. One might say that things would have been worse without the subsidies but it could also be said that the decline was 9.7 times bigger than the expected benefit. Even when the expected gain is expressed as a percentage of the total production before the alleged impact, it is still a tiny fraction of total activity. The tax benefit is even more tiny since only 60 percent of personal income ends up being subject to sales taxes.

Only 16 counties out of 95 managed to have an inflation adjusted manufacturing payroll in 2010 that was greater than it was in 2001. The only county that managed to increase manufacturing jobs and end up with more manufacturing payroll in the last nine years of records was Fayette County. I don't think their success had anything to do with an interchange being built though two have been considered on opposite ends of Fayette county. Just talking about an interchange does not save jobs or Putnam County would not have lost 3,210 manufacturing jobs during the same nine year period that Fayette County gained 621 manufacturing jobs and Cheatham County gained 216. Claiborne county was another winner with 483 industrial jobs gained and Meigs County gained 72 industrial jobs. If there is any common factor between the gaining counties, it seems to be that none of them are overly blessed with Interstate interchanges since Meigs and Caliborne don't have any.


09 MAY 2012

      The illusions of the limited costs and the alleged extravagant local benefits of the Fifth Interchange are perpetuated by the idea that the large cost can be spread over a lot of people, while at the same time concentrating the benefits to a small group of people. Helping manufacturers is particularly problematic since they pay for their product from sales of as many customers as they can get. Thus, the benefits cross city, county, state and international lines. This begs the question: Why should we provide bribes, subsidies, special tax privileges, free golf club memberships, infrastructure, cheap land and no telling what else to have those benefits go all over creation? In normal commerce people exchange their money for a good that they want and in the ideal exchange, each party feels better off after the transaction. Normally, there is no need to delve into the details of what each party then does with the exchanged item.

      When the government gets involved, there is no voluntary exchange but there is still the expectation that there should be a reasonable relationship between what was lost to what was gained. We are, unfortunately in the grip of a three tier government structure that thinks that we will not notice the pain if it can be divided by over six million Tennesseans, 72,000 residents of Putnam County or 30,000 residents of Cookeville. The last fiasco that the city got into was a law suit in which it was ordered to pay $16 million dollars to the Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation. The yearly payments for damaging their business by excessive annexation seem to be deposited within the budget of the Cookeville Electric Department, so that cost will be socialized over less than 17,000 electrical customers.

      When the Fifth Interchange was first proposed, we treated it like a free road since about 80% of the cost was to be paid by the federal government and 20% was to be paid by the state government. That deal died when Corridor J moved and the new deal is that the city will pay half of the cost and the state will pay half of the cost. If you look really closely at the fine print, the city pays the real costs not the estimated costs and it is due suddenly after the bids are opened. We know nothing about the manufacturer who will bless this community, its product, its suppliers nor anything about how the product is distributed. We don't even know if the new manufacturer will compete and kill an existing industry. What we do know is that the local government will bribe via favorable rental, purchase or whatever means to help lower the cost of production.

      Most likely, capital cost will be about 5% of the product cost but that really does not matter when trying to imagine where our tax money goes, since some of it will be integrated into the business in order to lower the cost of the item manufactured. Helping them make cheaper widgets certainly blesses the universe of customers of the unknown client of our empty industrial park but, it assures that the local benefit will be as diluted as the cost would be diluted by dividing by a very large number. This discussion of cost is not limited to tax money. There is a fairness issue with picking out a special class of activity to get special dispensations. What about retail, wholesale, finance, medical and the other sectors of the local community? Are they not being slighted or ignored? What real civic benefit will local government cast aside to get the next client at the Business Park?

      A really good example of growing manufacturing in the state of Tennessee is Fayette County. This county is growing and people and businesses are most likely fleeing the crime and taxation of Memphis. This growth of manufacturing is in stark contrast to Bradley County which is adjacent to Chattanooga. For some reason, the nearby Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is doing nothing obvious for Bradley County. Bureau of Economic Analysis records of Fayette County shows a remarkable increase in manufacturing output while Bradley County is showing a loss of manufacturing output. They both have plenty of interchanges and the governor wants to build another on the county line between Fayette and Haywood County. The Fayette County manufacturing output however is not turning into a concurrent and equivalent increase in per capita income. This is because the product is shipped elsewhere. It is used, taxed and provides benefits elsewhere. The miracle of manufacturing productivity means that fewer people are needed to produce more stuff. As machines get smarter and smarter, the level of skill needed to operate those drops and so can the average wages. It is not a hard thing to imagine that the manufacturer might demand more and more of the infrastructure while, at the same time, give back less and less in local taxation.

      Giving special privileges to manufacturing predates the 1979 peak of US industrial workers, yet nothing shows any change in perception of their value. The smart thing seems to be what everybody else is doing, which does not work either. This old policy needs to be revamped to take into consideration the new realities. Nothing has reversed the decline of net manufacturing jobs. The same end zone dance seems to be in order for a job moved across a city, county or state boundary as one that was truly made brand new. We are doing nothing but increasing industrial habitat and making that habitat more complex by putting infrastructure in it. Increasing the habitat may work for animals that have a natural proclivity to breed and few if any predators but there is no natural tendency for manufacturers to exist.

      What right does your local government have to serve the needs of other jurisdictions? If your local county insurance company found out your police were patrolling another county, I think they would want an adjustment on the insurance rate. The Fifth Interchange is an example of an emotional argument that has gone beyond sanity. Rationality cannot prevail because there is no basis of figuring out if the cost is worth the benefit. We have to use coercion, bribes and advertising to influence the behavior of people that we cannot control to do things that they might not have done anyway. We don't even know where the benefit is going to be or when it will happen, if ever. This is the modern day story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Our local and state governments believe in the magic beans and are buying them up. The more unlikely they are to bear the jobs promised, the more magic they are claimed to be.


08 MAY 2012

CARA Members--

      1) Cookeville Mayor Matt Swallows sent the e-mail below to a concerned and active CARA member. It looks like we have gotten the City's attention and that they are actually looking into FHWA requirements (something they should have done long ago, rather than just accepting TDOT's word on the matter). And they are enlisting Congressman Black's help. They would not have done this if CARA members had not spoken out. So there is a small victory.... Let's hope it turns into a large victory for all of us, including the City.

      2) Attached is the latest LTE (letter to the editor) that I have seen. Written by a new CARA member. Good work. We need more like this. We need LTEs and personal conversations with City officials to get them thinking of maybe NOT building the Bennett Road Extension....even if it means no interchange. CARA does not oppose the interchange, and we support the new business park. But the Northern Connector aka Bennett Road Extension is too high a price to pay. A "road to nowhere" that will hurt numerous homeowners and family farms along the route. PLEASE SPEAK OUT!


Begin forwarded message:

----- Original Message -----

From: Penny Greene

To: Ric Finch

Sent: Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:43 AM

Subject: Re: Bennett Road Extension

From: "Matt Swallows"

Date: May 3, 2012 4:58:46 PM CDT

Subject: Bennett Road Extension

      Jim Shipley and I have spoken again about this and he called Paul Degges the assistant commissioner with TDOT. Jim reiterated the fact that the city would rather not build this road and that there are several citizens that are also opposed to the extension. Paul was also aware of Ric Finch and several others that have contacted his office and he understood everyone’s stance on the issue but he said the fact is if we do not agree to building the road the FHWA would not approve the interchange. So the bottom line according to Paul was you do not have to build the connector road but if you want the exit/interchange you have to. Jim also had a meeting with Diane Black Tuesday morning in regards to the business park and the connector road, he told her our concerns and she said she would go to FHWA and let us know for sure what they say in regards to the connector road being the linch pin for the interchange.

I told you we would try everything we could, so I will keep you informed as to what Diane Black comes back to us with.

Matt Swallows, CIC, CRM

The Swallows Agencies

P.O. Box 3267

Cookeville, TN 38502

Phone: 931-526-4025

Fax: 931-526-7059



Monday 07 MAY 2012

      At the last county commission meeting there was a question about where to get $200,000 for a horse barn at Tennessee Tech. In typical fashion, the county commission was softened up by an economic development report that assured that people come to Cookeville and practically throw money out the window for horse show events. Then came the pitch that there would be a horrible waste if the county and the city did not throw in to prevent the injustice of people having to go elsewhere to show their horses. Those poor Tech students could now keep their horses at the new barn. We will be known to the world as people who have brought order out of chaos. The county executive assured the commission that there was still $6 million dollars left in the budget. This probably aided the commission in their decision to conditionally give money for the horse barn provided that the other two governments came up with their portion of the project.

      Now that the children are in danger of falling into permanent stupidity if we don't pony up another $2 million plus dollars, the Herald-Citizen has been seized with a fit of amnesia over the $6 million that was burning a hole in the Commissioners pockets at the last meeting. I probably should exempt Commissioner Jonathan Williams since he did try to postpone the transfer by studying it through the usual process rather than make what was clearly an emotional decision. The reason the group could not wait on the check was that they were going to see the governor the next day to beg for more state money for the same project. Showing up without the county support might make the state less likely to grant their request, I suppose. The exact opposite would make an easier theory to defend since both the city and the county have lately been doing what I consider a lousy job of stewardship of the people's money.

      After the April meeting, which ran at least three hours, the Herald-Citizen took all week to report on what happened and they did it in such a way that people are still protected from the truth by denying them the facts. The county Commission attacked Johnny Stites, of J&S Construction, in a shameful way and tried to fire him after he brought them bad news which sounded a lot like the bad news that the sheriff has been trying to tell this commission and the previous one for years. This county needs two schools and a jail or some kind of jail fix. Either way, we are broke and are carrying a higher per capita debt than most large cities in Tennessee including Hamilton, Knox and Shelby County. It should be no surprise that the county has a slightly higher per capita debt than the city of Cookeville because the city gets more sales taxes per sale than the county. Neither the county or the city can afford this extravagant industrial park in addition to the other one that lost all its magic because it was not on I-40 . The demands of the Highlands Industrial Park are well in front of security, education and all other normal government functions in this county.



Monay 07 MAY 2012

      A little known spending reform in Congress called the REINS ACT may be an effective tool in the future to correct misguided and rogue agencies like the Federal Highway Administration that approves gratuitous interchanges for the purpose of building speculative interchanges on the Interstate system. The act was intended to correct regulation by agencies like the EPA and others that are spewing thousands of regulations that are impacting the ability of the US to compete in international trade and preventing a speedy recovery from this longest recession in American history.

      The theory is that any regulation that has an impact on the economy exceeding $100 million dollars must be reigned in and brought under the control of congress. The regulation must be made public law, not by unaccountable bureaucrats, but by members of congress. It is not likely that this legislation will be passed by the next lame duck congress but it could be passed as a means of fighting the problems of federal debt and excessive spending. The federal government and all governments cannot afford to speculate and build interchanges that have no clients in waiting.

      A quick study on the Fifth Interchange will know immediately that the Fifth Interchange would not qualify because of its $15.7 million dollar price tag plus the federal portion of the road costs is below the threshold. The FHWA, however, has already permitted many speculative connectors to come into existence in Tennessee and presumably other states in spite of the laws that seem to forbid them. By creating a pattern of legal exceptions, the FHWA has become a rogue co-speculator. I wish fervently to see people treat Industrial Park speculators with the same enthusiasm as oil speculators.

      One of the worst case situations is the O'Neil Road Interchange in Cocke County. According to the public documents still available on the internet, this flyover bridge was holding up a gravel road with half of the traffic that our Bennett road sees in a day. Robertson and Sumner County have another speculative interchange valued at $28.5 million. Wilson County got its speculative Interchange under the MPO process but a very important reason was that it served a nearby industrial park. If you add all this up and add the one in Fayette County associated with the solar farm and maybe a new Mega Site that has been passed over numerous times, the total easily bumps the $100 million limit. Nowhere did I detect any hint of local money going into the connector road, if one was built, or interchange, even though Mt. Juliet, in Wilson County, is way more able to afford this than Cookeville.

      This Fifth Interchange was never anticipated in the federal regulations governing transportation money. Title 23 of the United States Code, Section 133 declares that a project connecting to the Interstate(or other major arterial) cannot even be considered if it is connected to a local or collector road. The Federal Highway System is mostly arterial highways including the Interstate System. In the past, the Federal Government has been careful to limit both the miles of the Interstate and the National Highway System Mileage. This fact implies that interconnections with the Interstate and other arterials are to be rare.

      Bennett Road is a collector road both now and after its extension. Mine Lick Creek Road is a collector road. Collector roads and local roads are rarely designed for heavy truck or Semi traffic. Has anyone thought how the emergency Interstate traffic is going to be routed in the event that 80,000 pound semi's are routed off the Interstate and onto US 70 over Bennett Road? The last transportation bill had a provision to raise the legal weight to 97,000 pounds. I guess the new Industrial Park will be designed for manufacturing Nerf footballs. Unfortunately, the Secretary can generate an exception to any such rule but maintains the responsibility for consistency throughout the US. This begs the question: Has the FHWA gone rogue all over the country or just in Tennessee? This also poses another question that the taxpayers might ask: Is the Federal Government required to pay the usual 80/20 split with the feds for the $15.7 million Interchange or is this cost all on TDOT because the interchange violates eligibility standards for the Surface Transportation Program?

      The FHWA originally approved a four-lane highway for the connector road that had a design speed of 70 MPH and was limited access. These previous decisions perfectly reflected the prevailing theory on interconnection. The city is trying to get this $34 million monster trimmed down to a $10 million dollar goat trail with a 45 MPH design speed. Forget about getting to the hospital quicker or the fire department getting to your house a lot quicker. The intersection of Buffalo Valley and Bennett Road will have a poor man's traffic light, better known as a four-way stop sign on it and all of the access roads that were promised to get a good public review will eventually slow down traffic more. We keep being assured that the city is talking to TDOT, but it seems that the city needs to be talking to the FHWA, since they apparently have the right to approve nearly anything.


Wednesday, 27 APRIL 2012

CARA Members and Concerned Citizens:

1) The City held its dog & pony show last night. I saw at least 16 CARA members there, and undoubtedly more attended than I recognized, since I do not know all of you. CARA members present included several people who do not live anywhere near the project and will not be directly impacted if the road is built. They were there to support their fellow citizens who have a lot to lose if the road is built. Thank you all for attending.

2) Note that the City is suddenly now calling the Northern Connector the "Bennett Road Extension". Whether or not this is an innocent new name or an attempt to confuse people I leave to you to judge for yourselves.

3) Disappointing aspects of the meeting: The meeting was set up so the City could hear local landowners comment on route details and points of access. They frankly did not want to hear people say "We don't want this road." So the meeting was arranged in such a way that there was little opportunity to record this feeling. Second disappointment: TDOT did not send representatives to this meeting (as they should have, inasmuch as TDOT is the agency telling the City that it has to build the road if it wants the new interchange), further limiting opportunities for citizens to say the road is not wanted.

4) A copy of the H-C's story on the meeting is attached as a PDF. The article says "some 130 people showed up"... That, I am certain, is a pretty significant under count. Probably that figure reflects only those who bothered to sign in, which you did not have to do.

Two statements in the article, attributed to City Manager Jim Shipley are worthy of note: He stated that the City had a lot of other uses for the money it will take to build the road. So, once again, we have a city official stating, in a round about way, that they really would rather not build this road.

      Shipley further stated that claims that the city could avoid the Bennett Road project are being looked at "carefully." This would appear to be a reference to the information given the City by CARA a week ago regarding the possibility that FHWA regulations or policies will actually allow, in some cases, an interchange to be built without connector roads on both sides of the interstate. Well, we certainly hope they are pursuing this diligently.

5) Getting FHWA to allow the City an exemption from the requirement of the northern connector will almost certainly require intervention from higher up, i.e., Washington. The City doesn't want the financial strain of building this road. Everyone who looks at a map showing the proposed new I-40 interchange and the business park on the south of I-40 knows that a connector road north to a dead road like US 70 is truly a waste of tax dollars. The great majority of the home and landowners along the route don't want it. And the people of our community have spoken out against a road along this route time and time again, for over 10 years! So why do we have to have it? Because TDOT says FHWA requires it. But is that really true? The only way to find out is to get someone powerful to go to FHWA and find out what they actually require and whether or not an exception can be made in a case where the connector road is unwarranted as well as unwanted.

      We believe that Congressman Diane Black is well-positioned to help us out with FHWA. CARA urges you to contact her and ask her to help both the City and her constituents out. Here is her contact info (and BTW, the preferred title is Congressman, in spite of her gender):

Congressman Diane Black

1531 Longworth HOB

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-4231

Fax: (202) 225-6887

You can also go to her website and send an e-mail: A hard copy letter probably carries more impact than an e-mail, but the choice is yours.

6) As you know, CARA representatives have already talked to Congressman Black's local field representative. Last night at the meeting, City Councilman Alma Anderson was informed of this and she said she would contact Black's local office in her official capacity to re-emphasize that City government would like not to have to build this road.

      I had a chance meeting with County Executive Kim Blaylock today and a bit of discussion followed. Kim stated that she too would contact Black's office to say that local goverrnment does not want to build this road.

      If enought people will ask Congressman Black to aid us, the wheels may turn.

7) Where do we go from here? First of all, please contact Congressman Black. Later will be further opportunities to comment on the road, such as City Council meetings when funding the road must be approved by the Council. Also public hearings on annexation and modification of the city Major Street Plan (May 21st being the next one). In the meantime, you need to exert your influence on public opinion by speaking out to your friends and neighbors, by writing letters to the editor of the H-C, and talking to any City officials you know, urging them to enlist help from higher up to get the alleged FHWA requirement waived.

      Thank you for speaking out!



Wednesday, 25 APRIL 2012

CARA Members and Friends---

1) Attached is a LTE (Letter to the Editor) published in last Sunday's H-C. Short, but makes the point well. The Northern Connector or --as they are now calling it, the "Bennett Road Extension"-- is a waste and should not be build. Kudos to Mr. Fox, who is not a CARA member. I hope some of you on the CARA mailing list will go and do likewise--- CARA influenced public opinion about Corridor J by writing a slew of LTEs to the H-C. You can do it again!

2) The City of Cookeville's Pubic Hearing on the "Bennett Road Extension" --don't let them confuse you with the new name, it's the same old Northern Connector, a segment of the same old unwanted Northern Loop that we shot down earlier-- will be held in the Leslie Town Center tomorrow, Thursday April 26, from 5 to 7 PM. Please attend this important meeting and let your opinions about the Bennett Extension - Northern Connector be known.

Note: The City has invited comment on details of the road location and where connections should be. They have not invited and do not really want to hear people say "We don't want the road at all." But this is what they need to hear. They need to hear this loudly and repeatedly.

3) CARA representatives met today with Mr. Michael Detwiler, a field representative for Congressman Diane Black. The purpose of our meeting was to make Congressman Black aware of these salient facts about the Bennett Extension - Northern Connector:

--the majority of the people in this area don't want a road along this route.

--the City of Cookeville doesn't see the need for it and doesn't want the financial strain of building it.

--the City has been told repeatedly by TDOT that they cannot have the new interchange (that they do want, badly) unless they fulfill this FHWA requirement of building the connector road.

--a review of current FHWA policy as stated in the Federal Register suggests that the connector road requirement may be flexible; it may be that exceptions can be made.

      Mr. Detwiler will be communicating these ideas to Congressman Black and we will see what her response is. Today's meeting was an opening session, but we hope it will lead to a solution to this problem that will suit the City as well as city and county taxpayers.

      Hope to see you tomorrow at the Public Hearing!


Sunday Herald Citizen, 22 APRIL 2012

    Input was asked and, for my two cents worth, I think Bennett Road is another waste of taxpayers money for something we do not need! The wide and well built Highway 56 is very near, so why would you ever consider cutting up all those beautiful farms for another road this is not needed? (I do not own property affected by Bennett Road.)

      Don't we have enough waste all around us, including the mansions, resorts, and parked $100,000 plus buses that our taxes have purchased?

     Ask around and I think you will find many are sick and tired of waste!

Johnny W. Fox



Saturday, 21 APRIL 2012

CARA Members and Supporters--

      Two CARA representatives met Friday morning with four City of Cookeville officials to discuss the Northern Connector and whether or not it is actually required by FHWA. City officials present at the meeting were: City Manager Jim Shipley, City Planner James Mills, City Engineer Greg Brown and Melinda Keifer who is Cookeville's Economic & Community Development Coordinator (and, if I understood correctly, officially in charge of the Northern Connector project for the City). Below is my summary of the meeting.

      1) As I have stated repeatedly in CARA bulletins, the City does not actually want to build the proposed Northern Connector. There is considerable evidence to this effect in public documents, in addition to private statements by City and County officials. [See section two of the attachment.] Most of the officials at our meeting Friday reiterated that they would rather not build this connector road, and see no need for it in the near future. I came away from this meeting more convinced than ever that they really don't want to build the connector, but feel forced to, to get the interchange they do want.

      2) City has been told repeatedly by TDOT that FHWA will not allow the new I-40 Interchange at Mine Lick Creek Rd. to be built unless the Northern Connector is also built. [CARA has letters from TDOT that substantiate this as TDOT's position.] City views the construction of the new interchange as critical to the success of the new business park, therefore CIty is prepared to build the connector, to pay for much of it by whatever means necessary, be that a bond issue or a tax increase.

      3) During our discussion it was mentioned that City officials have not actually talked directly with FHWA officials on the subject of the connector road requirement and what flexibility FHWA might have regarding this requirement. City has accepted TDOT's position that FHWA requires the connection, but has not explored that directly with FHWA officials. The main purpose of our meeting Friday was to make City aware that current FHWA policy on new interstate interchanges does not appear to always require connectors such as proposed by TDOT. We believe the City is definitely interested in a way out of building the connector road, at least until the City sees a real need for it, which is not for many years to come. Further research into the regulations and policies defining the necessity of a connector road will be done. A political solution, or way out, may be possible in light of shrinking state gas tax revenues and road building funds and the state's need to pay for the maintainence of existing roads, bridges, overpasses, etc.

      4) Melinda Keifer went to some pains to explain how diligently the City has worked with TDOT to modify the nature of the connector road, should it indeed have to be built (which remains the City's understanding and working position: as far as they know, the connector road is required by FHWA). The original plans for the Northern Connector were for a four lane, divided, limited access, high speed road. The present plans, negotiated by the City with TDOT, call for: a) a reduced ROW strip (but still wide enough for four lanes); b) the initial construction of a two-lane road (the remaining two lanes to be added at some unspecified future date, when needed); c) access to the connector road at several points, so that local land owners don't get cut off, and (from City's view point) may actually benefit from the new road...local businesses could locate on the new road; d) a grade crossing with safety gates where the connector road crosses the Nashville & Eastern track (rather than an expensive overpass as originally planned).

      I report the above modifications so that CARA members will understand that the City has worked to ameliorate the negative aspects of the connector road. That is all very commendable, but the Northern Connector is still an unnecessary and destructive road that City would prefer not to build, and should not be forced to do so by either TDOT or FHWA.

      5) During the conversation it was brought to my attention that I had sent out some mis-information in a previous CARA bulletin, specifically, my statement that seven homes would have to be re-located if the connector was built. This information was taken directly from TDOT's 2006 Environmental Assessment document for the connector project. Apparently the City's current plans to build (initially) only a two-lane road means that some (all?) of these homes are no longer threatened to the same degree as they were by the original TDOT plans. That is good, though sometimes homes are effectively ruined by a road passing too closely, even though the home does not have to be re-located.

      6) The up-coming Public Hearing on the Northern Connector will be primarily an opportunity for the public to comment on the City's plans for the connector, especially such aspects as where access points should be. James Mills was quoted by the H-C as saying that the route of the Northern Connector was non-negotiable, but actually the City does have some leeway as to the exact location within the corridor that has been designated and environmentally analysed. It would be appropriate to comment at the hearing on how the new road will impact affected or adjacent properties and natural features like wetlands, streams, etc. CARA members should know that TDOT representatives are expected to be on hand at this meeting, and TDOT officials need to be told emphatically that the majority of the people in this area do not want the Northern Connector to be built by any route. And that we don't appreciate TDOT forcing City to spend millions to build an un-needed road just to satisfy some vague FHWA policy.

      We encourage CARA members and all concerned citizens to attend this Public Hearing, find out what the plans are, and speak your mind about them. Please spread the word! This community meeting will be held April 26 (this coming Thursday) in the Leslie Town Center (1 West First Street) from 5 to 7 PM. For further information you may call Cookeville Planning Dept. at 520-5271

      Thank you all for participating in this discussion of an important issue that will affect us all, one way or another, regardless of whether you live in the city or in the county.



Why The Fifth Interchange is Immoral and Unethical

Monday, 16 APRIL 2012

      Even an atheist should be able to understand that this Fifth Interchange is wrong, but for a community of Christians who believe in the Bible, it is even more distressing to see the conflict over this project. The seizure of other people's property under color of the law is in two distinct phases. First is the tax money and second in the property that must be bought and converted to a different purpose. When the Fifth Interchange was rejected as the Corridor J Fiasco several years ago, many people were outraged that the government would spend money on Putnam County because the federal program that was spending the money had a mission to serve economically underperforming counties. I first noticed this phenomenon not in Putnam County but at a public meeting in Livingston. Putnam County is not an underperforming county and in a lot of ways is performing better than Hamilton County with their VV plant and Montgomery County with their acquisition of Hemlock Semiconductor. Both of these counties have been a frequent example of how to get economic development.

      One of the biggest problems with living in a Republic is actually letting the government represent you. The presumption that they are doing the right thing and doing their job and really representing you is often relied upon to let the average person get on with the rest of their life. The Bible says in Titus 3:1 that Christians should be subject to magistrates and governors appointed over them. Somehow that meant to some that no governor or magistrate is immune from a bad decision or never rules in an unrighteous way. This quote from the Bible was used to justify Slavery, another kind of theft, and Nazi occupation of Poland that leads to the round up and extermination of Jews.

      The government was always involved in economic development because it could, at little per capita cost, generate a safe environment where normal exchange of goods could exist. It could provide transportation and communication at a cost that would be to the individual difficult to provide. The government provided legal protection and a court system to make regular trade between different people in different jurisdictions. Economic Development used to be good government and low taxes to generate the environment for economic development. The dark side of Economic Development began to manifest itself in the United States at about the time of the Interstate or 1957. Massive resistance to the economic threat of the Interstate to some businesses that were in the wrong places or bypassed forced the federal government to dispatch people from the Commerce Department and smooth over these concerns with sophisticated arguments about Keynesian Economics and assurances that the money or impact `would actually multiply if the government spent it. Libertarians took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

      Government could or would be a blessing to the people only to the extent that it could operate on truth and do justice. Even in the best of times, that was never a perfect world but it is even a more imperfect world now that the government has fully embraced the dark side of Economic Development. A government could take your property and promise something and could easily provide the benefit that was promised only so long as it stuck to the basics such as schools, jails, security and basic transportation. The justification for taking someone's property or taxes is and was much better founded when what was promised became a material reality. You may not like your property to be taken for a road, but when that road helps your neighbors or even improves your property value in spite of your opposition, the needs of the many can be seen as superior to the needs of the few. The constitution provides for compensation to those who lost their property and from that standpoint, the government could at least be prevented from stealing. This perception remains today and is used to bludgeon anyone who stands in the way or speaks out against this Fifth Interchange or Industrial Park. But, what is not considered is the change in Economic Development that is caused by embracing the immoral Dark Side of Economic Development. You might be paid for your property but you cannot assume you will get the promised universal benefits that trick everyone else into believing it is a good project.

      Economic Development in the Twentieth Century crossed the line in the depth of the Depression. Bribes were formulated to entice industry move from one part of the country to another. The government suddenly felt forced not to provide something that it had but to provide something that it did not have. In order to do this, it must assure the behavior of people and groups of people outside of its normal sphere of influence. In the case of the first bribe in the United States to acquire a stocking manufacturer, it worked, but the manufacturer could not be bribed to stay in that business and changed from manufacturing to the financial business, presumably banking. Bribes were shown to work but you have to keep them available and ongoing. The government did in fact promise jobs and did get some jobs for most of the contracted period of time.

      Bribes or subsidies became so common that the existence of bribes was normalized. All of the smart people and politicians were offering them. All of the smart people and the politicians were suddenly in competition with each other. In 1979, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States began to decline and they have never recovered from the constant downward spiral. In spite of this, the yearly value of manufacturing continues to be about 20 per cent of the world production. Even on a county by county basis it is easy to find places that have had manufacturing job losses yet the value of manufactured goods is on an upward ramp. To fuel the fires of economic development and make it easier to separate the people from their tax money, it became common to blame foreign manufacturing and international agreements for the dwindling supply of industrial jobs. Certain facts, though true, can become lies when contradicting and mitigating facts are not mentioned. Jobs are not all going to Mexico. Manufacturing is not disappearing. We just cannot afford to use as many people as we used to in the manufacturing process. The constant upward pressure for increased Social Security and taxation of labor is providing a constant pressure to get rid of labor.

      The generation of fear in states and counties became a common thing to take some kind of action. Some poor counties have been seeing their children leave to other parts of the state or nation for years to get jobs that the local economy cannot provide. It is normal and human to want to keep family and friends close by providing those jobs. It is normal for cities and county governments to worry about losing the base of jobs that provides money to operate the essential services of government. The deep well of good intentions can have a lot of bad things at the bottom of it. Should we bring in an industry that might compete with an existing one? Might one industry kill the other through excessive competition and all of our bribes be wasted? Maybe a good catch at the industrial park might take away our good workers who would leave for better paying jobs? A really good catch might bid up the price of good workers all over the area.

      In about 1984, the number of industrial jobs in Tennessee peaked and has been going down every year. It does not matter who was president or the state of the economy. A disappearing commodity, industrial jobs, means that the bribes have to get bigger, while at the same time, the promises are much more likely not to be fulfilled. Instead of saying we are going to bribe someone to get you a job, the more truthful statement is that the probability of success is declining.

      If you had heard that the supply of fish or rabbits had declined since the last time you went hunting or fishing, you would probably not respond by taking along more fishing tackle or more ammunition on the next trip. In the Economic Development game however, that is exactly what has to been done. More and more land and more and more infrastructure have been purchased to make bigger and bigger bribes. For some reason it looks better to have large continuous parcels of land appearing to be an industrial ghost town than to have abandoned buildings with infrastructure scattered all over the county or the town. Most counties and cities and government in Tennessee have some sort of Industrial Development plan or planned achievement. The result is that no potential manufacturer needs to worry about paying a lot for the land or even the building that they intend to use. This habit of providing free or below market-price land has driven the average capital cost per manufactured good down to about 5% in the United States. When people come to look for industrial development land, they are going to find cheap land because the government owns or controls most of it. According to our County Mayor, we have to have land to prevent a potential manufacturer from coming to town and failing to find land to establish a factory. Some abandoned manufacturing buildings and infrastructure are not seen as good buys because of the government subsidies for new locations and new buildings. It is the purpose of an industrial park to interfere with the free interchange of negotiations between buyer and seller and make sure that the jobs are not lost because the capital needs could not be satisfied.

      The competition to host the next factory is so intense that it has been accepted without a fact check that to get a client you not only have to have cheap land but existing infrastructure. Never mind the fact that the existing buildings in the county that have been shut down already have infrastructure in the form of power, water, sewer and even parking lots and some have loading docks. To prevent the empty industrial park from giving off the appearance of an industrial ghost town, adding the occasional park and beautifying the area is often suggested at additional cost to the taxpayer. Now they are not only turning our tax dollar into bribes, they are turning our water, sewer and power lines into helping hands to the water, power and sewer in the industrial park that have no customers or inadequate customers. We pay for infrastructure with spinning meters but the industrial park meters are not spinning, so the taxpayer has to support those losses with their utility bills. Building infrastructure for a non-existent or pretend client is problematic because the designer does not know how much is too much. The only answer is to over provide and hope for the best. Examples are legion of cities getting a serious client and having to make modifications to the property boundaries, cut vegetation or relocate utilities.

      Economic studies are also problematic but very useful in leading people to a positive attitude about economic development that is not deserved or based in facts. The economic study for the Highlands Business Park, called the Wadley-Donavan Report says nothing about buying 500 acres of ground and building an interchange. These consultants from Atlanta, Georgia were used for cover in a scheme to get the dream park with the dream interchange that would save and create all the jobs we would ever need. The only problem is that Putnam County has lost over 3000 industrial jobs in the past nine years of available data from the BEA. This data comes during the good years and the bad years and is average. In spite of this bad news, per capita income has risen every year during the same period. The property value in the city of Cookeville for the last ten years has risen about 6.4% per year. This begs the unspoken question: Why are we doing this? The two counties that got miracle industrial clients, Volkswagen in Hamilton and Hemlock Semiconductor in Montgomery County, have experienced a decrease in per capita earnings in the last year of data. Hamilton County has lost 9000 industrial jobs from 2001 to 2009, the last year of BEA data. This job lost comes even though they built their interchange to nowhere and the state sent $240 million dollars into the bribe pile to get the VW plant. A VW plant is suppose to provide 2000 employees. Putnam County has lost one and a half VW plants in about nine years. How many more industrial parks and interchanges do we have to build before we stop the loss of industrial jobs? We already have industrial zoning on three out of four interchanges. What will industrial zoning on a Fifth Interchange do? What proof do they have that the loss of industrial jobs is caused by the lack of Interstate access?

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, except in the well meaning world of economic development. Available industrial parks are over built. It is a special category of real estate that is part of the real estate bubble. Spending tax money on this bubble is dangerous and endangers other fundamental and more critical services that are legitimate and contribute to the quality of life. These extraordinary claims are not as much fact as they are prophecy. Spending on this enterprise is gambling and a bad gamble at that. Manufacturing does not need help with capital costs as much as they need help with people related costs. The raising of taxes to afford this white elephant makes wage demands go up and the likelihood of having an affordable workforce go down.

      People who want this industrial park, no matter what it costs, are quick to characterize the resisters as being against progress or negative and maybe anti-social. They point out that the use of condemnation to get what the city needs is normal and is legal. But, just because something is legal does not mean it is right. When a government promises something, it has an obligation to produce it and to maintain it for the welfare of the community. The promise of more industrial jobs is more like a promise to buy more lottery tickets. This connector road is not for the purpose of transportation, it is for the purpose of getting the best industrial park our tax money can buy. There is way more money spent on this park than the city will admit. According to Ronnie Meyers, at the UCEMC, the city has agreed to pay the Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation a settlement of $25 million dollars at a million per year for annexations associated with the industrial park. According to City Financial Statement dated 2009, the amount was 16 million with 6 million down plus ten years at one million per year. This shows that the City scrambled to mitigate a large unexpected financial hit. Either version of the UCMC settlement shows the city has a limited ability to finance surprises.

      There are several empty industrial parks on interstates in Tennessee and the base price of land is cheaper. There are at least 25 of them in the TVA web site and two are alreeady in Cookeville. In fact, there is industrial land available on the Baxter exit west of the proposed interchange. No one is counting the cost of the tax revenue lost while this Highlands Industrial Park remains empty, nor is anyone concerned about the tax money lost through the taking of this Bennett Road Extension.

      The idea that you have to have a manufacturing facility on the interstate is ridiculous. There are existing manufacturing locations all over the state that are miles from the nearest Interstate. If you ship your product 500 miles to a customer, what is another mile or two? If that is a make or break proposition, then that business is not going to survive anyway. What kind of business really needs proximity to an exit? It is not a manufacturing facility; it is road side services like hotels, motels and restaurants. This is exactly what is taking place in Hamilton County at their interchange near the VW facility. It is going to turn into a Bass Pro Shop and a motel. There is no foul here since no one in Hamilton County was promised that this interchange was going to be an industrial interchange. While all the condemnation was going on in Putnam County the emphasis was in the industrial nature of the acquisition and then the term mixed use came back into the vocabulary after the Certificate of Need was issued by the state to the Highlands Industrial Park.

      Not only is the park bad for the county and the city, it is bad for the state of Tennessee. If this road costs $25 million dollars and it has a life cycle of 40 years, it will represent a cost of about $1,358,578.67 per year to pay back over 40 years at the rate of 4.5%. This is also about $45 per person within the city limit, every year for the next 40 years. If the state of Tennessee gets about 3 cents per vehicle mile and the year is divided into 365.25 days over 40 years, the traffic count on that road needs to be 38,214 per day for the investment to pay back. In the environmental assessment, for this project, TDOT projected that Willows and Jefferson Street would be carrying somewhere between 26,600 and 32,000 vehicles per day in the year 2030. Both were projected to carry half of that in 2010. The projected length is 3.47 miles so every trip generates a sum of about 10 cents. This road needs about 13.6 million vehicle miles per year on it to get enough gas tax money to sustain the total state and city investment. If the state and the city split the cost, then Cookeville only needs half of that or 19,107.11 per day. This is more than the predicted 2010 traffic count on SR 135, or Willow and SR 136, South Jefferson from the traffic study done in 2000 within the environmental assessment. Try to imagine 19,107 cars per day passing a single observer in 24 hours. That is a vehicle every 4.52 seconds. If you figure that there will still be four lanes with a center turning lanes, a vehicle every 18 seconds is required on four lanes with no rush hour traffic no slump after midnight.

      The state road aid to the city was only about $726,496 in 2011 according to the 2010-2011 Audit. The city will get a lump sum from the state no matter what the traffic count is. If the city manages to borrow the money for the Fifth Interchange connector, it will take 94% of the state revenue that is normally given to manage all roads to afford to buy this one. The temptation to use property and sales tax will be enormous and property tax is already being used to supplement state aid. The temptation to get the lowest possible start up cost will also be beyond their collective ability. The real costs will come much later in the project. It is often said that it is easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission but I doubt that we will even get an apology. The pattern has been that all previous expenditures are a justification to future expenditures.

      The failure to generate unrealistic amounts of traffic means that the state will lose money in their trust fund just on the initial construction. The city will lose even more because it will have to do pavement replacements and maintenance for the state as a part of this agreement and the gas tax money from TDOT is inadequate to carry this new responsibility plus what they already have. Over a 40 year life cycle you might expect three pavement replacements, signing changes, paint stripes, lighting and if you have enough accidents, traffic control devices. The city must also feel that their cops are not busy enough already without taking in another two square miles.

      This industrial park has been a shape shifter from the day in 1988 that mayor Grogan declared that it was going to cost $1,000,000 dollars plus $500,000 to extend Gould road to it. The public meeting concerning the original connector got public approval because the people were told it was a free road and that there would be no connector road. The letter that was sent out to local residents failed to count all of the costs already incurred like the sinkhole study, the law suits to condemn land and the 25 million dollar settlement with the Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation. The new residents of Cookeville will not get the legendary low electric prices that everyone else is getting because, in that suit, the city agrees to take no more UCEMC property for 25 years.

      We have devolved as a society where we apparently believe that stealing is wrong unless the government is doing it to procure some possible and even improbable benefit. We also seem to believe that gambling is good as long as the government is doing it for our own best interest. It is obvious that the county has come to the point that they can no longer afford this industrial park. They may have to raise county property taxes 40 cents to pay for the next two schools and continue debating what to do about the jail. All of this talk of a wheel tax won't even pay the interest on one school. The County and the City have nearly the same per capita debt. For people in the city, that combined debt, is over $3500 each. We are quickly approaching the same per capita debt that bankrupted the county around Birmingham Alabama. The number of dollars owed to the city as delinquent taxes has nearly tripled in the past three years.

      Proverbs 27:4 says that Wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand against envy? We are in the middle of a whirlpool of covetousness. We want but do not stand responsible for the cost. We won't even hold responsible those who have lead us to the brink of a major mistake. We are about to build a road that has no ability to pay for itself, much like the people who bought homes that caused the housing bubble. The state will send no one to help us. The permitting agency that certifies Industrial Parks never turns one down unless there is a legal challenge to it. The legislature provides no protection of the average citizen from foolish plans and ideas. There is no legal limit on the debt that our local governments can accrue. We were pitched a free road and a free interchange and a cheap industrial park Now it is going to cost us more than the benefit that we will ever see. If we cannot say no to this, can we ever say no to anything?


Monday, 16 APRIL 2012


     1)Please note that we have an important meeting coming up April 26. Please try to attend this meeting and voice your opposition to the Northern Connector.

     According to the H-C article (today's paper, Sunday Apr. 15), City Planner James Mills says the route is non-negotiable. If that were true, there would be no point in holding a public hearing. Don't believe this hooey-- nothing is non-negotiable. The entire Northern Connector concept may yet prove to be may not be a requirement at all. And if you will come out to this public hearing on April 26 and speak out against this wasteful and destructive road, you will help us build the case that it should not be built and does not have to be built.

     2) In the CARA bulletin sent to you this past Friday we informed you that CARA's legal counsel has investigated FHWA regulations and found that the current FHWA policy on new interchanges on the Interstate System does NOT appear to require a connection to the nearest major highway.

     Within an hour and a half of this bulletin being sent out to you, City Engineer Greg Brown called me. Someone on the CARA mailing list had forwarded this message on and it got to City Hall (which is OK; we were obviously going to share this info with the City) where it created quite a stir. They are VERY interested. They really don't want to build the Northern Connector. We expect to meet with City officials later this week to discuss this. We hope to help the City find a way out of building the Northern Connector and thereby saving millions in tax dollars.

     3) If you haven't already, please do call your two County Commissioners and ask them to vote against any Commission resolution in support of the Northern Connector.

     Thank you!




Friday, 13 APRIL 2012

CARA Members and Friends,


Here is an article from the April 13 H-C concerning a vote in a recent County Commission meeting, and another vote in a Commission meeting coming up Mon. April 16. Apparently the City of Cookeville needs the Commission to pass a resolution in favor of the Northern Connector. A number of commissioners have doubts, as well they should.


      It is CARA's official policy not to oppose the new I-40 Interchange at Mine Lick Creek Rd. We can see how it may benefit the planned new business park. But we must oppose the Northern Connector, because it is an absurd waste of tax dollars. It is not needed and will not be useful for a business park on the south side of the interstate. It will be destructive, forcing seven families out of their homes, and destroying prime farmland. TDOT concluded long ago (2006) when they studied the proposed Regional Economic Development Corridor, that a road along this route would not be justified. City officials and County officials are on public record as stating that they do not see a need for the Northern Connector, and that they do not want it. As pointed out in an earlier CARA bulletin, the cost of the Northern Connector to Cookeville taxpayers is far higher than reported by the H-C.

      Why then is the City prepared to build this road? Only to fulfill an alleged Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirement. TDOT says the FHWA will not permit them to build the new interchange on I-40 unless the Northern Connector is built. CARA's legal counsel has investigated this and the current FHWA policy on new interchanges on the Interstate System does NOT appear to require a connection to the nearest major highway. There is a good chance that someone in FHWA and/or TDOT is beating Cookeville over the head with a big stick that is not actually backed by a legal requirement.

      Please contact your County Commissioner before Monday and urge him/her to vote against any resolution in support of the Northern Connector. This road is not needed. It is a very bad idea.


      Thank you,



by TOUR editor Danny Newton

      Another chance to delay the Fifth Interchange may be in the making after the Local Fish Wrapper, better known as the Herald Citizen, reported mixed reviews to the city's proposal that the county help them get control of the property needed for the northern and southern connector road. Apparently TDOT wants to make sure the connector roads are well underway before finishing the connector. Finally the city stopped calling it an industrial park and now calls it a Business/Industrial park. This means that we may be getting our next motel soon, although the data on jobs at motels is declining in the past nine years according to the BEA.

     What is to be gained in this transaction is a delay of maybe one year in the city taxation for the 137 households in the annexation zone.

     Does anyone remember when the county was so rich that they were asked to loan the city the money for their part of the Fifth Interchange. Apparently something has happened. The county needs about $50 million dollars just for the new schools and the jail repair seems to be costing about three times the estimate. We need a new jail but we are patching up the old one.

     Does anyone even remember how the city and the county was suppose to go equal partners on this project? I certainly remember Kim Blaylock assuring the Certificate of Need Committee in Nashville that the City and the County were very good about working together with projects. I guess she was talking about the ball fields and the rail trail.

     It would help a lot of people get their mind in the right place if the county would put this project on a ballot. I know that most people have been lied to numerous times or at least been allowed to believe things that were not true but, as a hail-Mary pass and last ditch effort, I think this project needs to be on a referendum.

     Does anyone remember the good old days back in 1988 when the interchange was going to cost only a million dollars and the extension of Gould Road was going to be half a million dollars? We were told it was going to be a free road when it was part of Corridor J. Now we have to pay half of it and do the maintenance besides. We were told the city and county were partners but now...not so much. We were told it was going to save lives as a four lane but now it will be a two lane that morphs into an four lane maybe eight years later. Does anyone remember the Wadley-Donavan Report? That was the outside Economic Development consultants that were paid to tell us what to do about economic development. I got a redacted version of the report and a complete version from my neighbor and I could not find anywhere the Atlanta experts said to get $5 million dollars worth of land and spend another $14 million on infrastructure plus additional money on legal fees and sinkhole studies. We were told that was just going to be the connector and not the road. We were told that the connector was going to be a modified cloverleaf but when the drawings came out it was a low capacity diamond interchange. In 2003 the Mayor of Cookeville said that the road could be Phase II. Now it is Phase I...? We were told that the road was going to cost $34 million dollars as a four lane and now they are going to do it for $10 million? The connector is suppose to be $10 million. If you figure the county as 72,000 people,that would be about $300 each. We were told that The connector would take traffic off of Willow. The subsequent traffic study predicted no signifigant difference in traffic on Willow. The certificate of need committee was told that the project was favored by a majority of people who went to the public meetings. That interpretation was made possible by counting those in favor of road and connector and those in favor only if there was no road in the same category against the people who wanted the no build option. We were told by TDOT that taking the road through Kennys Auto Salvage would not be necessary and it would avoid an environmental clean up. Now the H-C says the road ends at Kennys Auto Salvage and there is not mention of the cost of the clean-up.

     There is no way to legitimize this project as a valuable county or city government sponsered project even assuming that there is a great revival of manufacturing jobs in this park. The fact that we have already sunk millions into this project is no excuse for wasting more. There is no assurance that the benefits will stay within the county lines. Even the study done by UT admitted that the benefit of the VW plant could go to outside counties, some of them not even in the state of Tennessee. Many people come here to get work from surrounfing counties. We should not mind being an incidental blessing to our neighbors but our local government should not force us to be a benefit to other counties. This project is more in the realm of a state project and the matching money does not make up for the discrepancy. Our county cops do not patrol adjacent counties just because our government can force us to pay for it. We don't house their prisoners for free and they don't house our prisoners for free.

     Over 3000 manufacturing jobs have left the county in the last ten years. This is equal to a VW plant and a half. How many jobs can this park absorb, especially since a lot of it is not usable because of the sinkholes and wet lands? Do we need to build a connector every ten years? When Chattanooga got VW, the state dove in with over $240 million dollars. I expect the state to do the same if we ever get our VW plant. For the last ten years, the personal income earned from county manufacturing has declined an average of 1.33% per year. Even though we have lost manufacturing jobs in this county, the average wage per job continues to rise. So, what is the emergency? What is the problem that the Chamber of Commerce seems determined to fix? Moreover, is there any end to what they will make us pay to get this dream park?

     If there is a true problem it is the government growing larger than the citizens ability to pay. In the state of Tennessee, disposable income took a dive in 2009 and 2010 but the spending on local government in Putnam County went up, possibly because of stimulus spending. Many more people are retired and find their income to be smaller than it used to be. Yet the city and the county marches on thinking that bigger is better and there is a never ending list of spending priorities that goes well beyond just the basics of security, transportation, education and utilities.

Our income, real income, is doubling every 40 years and our population is doubling every 44 years, using data from ten years back. Anytime the government grows more than 1.58 percent per year for population and 1.75 percent per year for real growth, the government is going to need more money. Setting the current budgets to zero growth may work well for a year or two but there are mandatory spending or maintenance of effort laws on the books for schools. There are also serious issues with mandatory catch-up payments for state and county workers when their retirement funds don't perform up to an assumed standard in the state law. Our tax money is under-managed because there is little or no plan for the long term except trying to figure out who to tax next.

I will see all of you at the next County Commission Meeting on 16 APRIL 2012.


Dear CARA Members and Supporters--

      I had a conversation with City Manager Jim Shipley yesterday. Jim was very forthcoming and informative. Also a bit shocking, considering what had been reported in the H-C Monday regarding $4 million costs for the connector road from the new interchange north to US 70 W.

      First of all, to clarify the H-C article: They refered to $2 million for the northern end of the connector and another $2 million for the southern end. I misinterpreted this "southern end" to mean the connection from I-40 south of to SR-135. This is incorrect. The "northern end" refers to the segment from Buffalo Valley Rd. north to US-70 W. The "southern end" refers to the segment from Buffalo Valley Rd. south to the new interchange on I-40 at Mine Lick Creek Rd. So the entire $4 million mentioned by the H-C is to be applied to the Northern Connector.

      Now, if that wasn't bad enough, apparently the $4 million costs noted by the H-C are less than half the actual cost. Mr. Shipley told me the actual cost of the Northern Connector is now estimated to run $10 million....and city taxes will probably have to go up to pay for it.

     Here's what Mr. Shipley said:

1) The 50/50 grant the city is trying to get will be from the State, a Local Interstate Connector grant. This grant is based on $2 million for improvements from I-40 north to Buffalo Valley Rd., and another $2 million north from Buffalo Valley Rd. to US 70 W. Of the total $4 million, the State will put up $2 million, which the City of Cookeville will have to match with $2 million of its own.

2) The four million in costs mentioned in the H-C article Mon. 3/12 is by no means fhe full cost. Mr. Shipley told me the cost estimate for ROW alone for the Northern Connector is $2 million. And construction costs are now estimated to run to $8 million.

3) City will finance the entire project; the connector will be a "city street"; Putnam County will not be involved. City has not yet annexed all the area that the Northern Connector will cross, but they will eventually. because "you don't want a city street where you cannot control development".

4) When I asked how the City will come up with $8 million, would they raise taxes or float a bond issue, Mr. Shipley replied that it will "likely be some of both."

5) When asked if the taxpayers have any say in the matter, Mr. Shipley replied that the city charter allows for residents to force a referendum on any city resolution passed, so city residents, by collecting enough signatures could call for a referendum on any city resolution increasing taxes or authorizing a bond sale to raise funds for the Northern Connector. But Mr. Shipley pointed out that it is difficult to get enough signatures to force a referendum; and if enough signatures are collected, then, of course, you still have to get enough votes for the referendum to overturn the city resolution. Short of a referendum, the City Council can raise taxes or issue a bond as it chooses.

6) Southern Connector: There is no "Southern Connector" equivalent to the Northern Connector, i.e., new 4-lane divided highway. But connectivity IS REQUIRED. City will improve Lee Seminary road south down to SR-135. Improvements will consist of adding a lane to make it a 3-lane road and straightening a major curve.

7) Mr. Shipley re-iterated that he personally, and other local government officials, do not want to build the Northern least not at the present time. He had hoped they could have an agreement with TDOT / FHWA that would postpone the construction of the Northern Connector indefinitely, "until it was needed". But FHWA will not allow this. They will not approve a new interstate interchange unless connectivity is assured on both sides of the interstate to the nearest major artery; the City will be required to sign contracts with TDOT and to have the connector project well under way before the new interchange can be built..

      To make sure I did not accidently mis-state anything Mr. Shipley told me, some of the above points were further verified/clarified by an e-mail exchange with Mr. Shipley today.

     The long and the short of it is this: The City Council wants the new interchange so badly that they are willing to spend $8 million to build a road that neither they nor city nor county residents want. A road that serves no purpose other than to fulfill an FHWA requirement. And to get the $8 million they will probably need to raise taxes on city residents and float a bond issue too!

Is this wise government?




30 SEPT 1988    Herald-Citizen Reports that Vice Mayor Grogan expects Fifth Interchange by the year 2000. Estimate for the interchange is $1 million. The estimated cost of extending Gould drive to the industrial park is $500 thousand.

26 SEPT 1996     TDOT passes feasibility study from the Transportation Planning Office to Progran Scheduling Office. This is the entire loop around Cookeville from I-40 to SR-111.

03 DEC 1998    Cookeville City Council asks TDOT to perform a feasibility study on constructing fifth interchange on I-40 at Mine Lick Creek Road. SPONSOR-JIM SHIPLEY

01 APRIL 1999    The Cookeville City Council asks TDOT to study the Maple Avenue flyover at I-40 as the new Fifth Interchange.

25 OCT 2000     TDOT dates the Interschange Justification Study for Federal Highway Administration Review as part of Corridor J intersection at Mine Lick Creek Road.

20 MAY 2002    Cookeville proposes to move the city limits to the vicinity to surround the Fifth Interchange

21 JUNE 2002    TDOT Advance planning report on the Northern Connector

24 FEB 2003    Cookeville Planning Commission passes resolution against constructing the connector road to the Fifth Interchange.

23 MAR 2003    TDOT report reccommends using SR 111, not Mine Lick Creek Road for Corridor J intersection with I-40.

15 JULY 2003    Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury releases report to the legislature with reccommendations for objective system of project selection.

AUG 2003     Final Report of Independant Investigation Sanctioned by TDOT. Studies selection process of 15 problematic road projects in Tennessee, Mine Lick Creek Road is one of them.

24 FEB 2003     City of Cookeville approves alternate "A" as Phase I Councilman Sam Sallee asks that The Northern Connector be Considered as Phase II.

22 AUG 2005     City of Sparta, in White County, throws in $50,000 for the Highlands Iniative

22 SEPT 2005     Herald-Citizen reports Highlands Initiative Kickoff with $2 million.

OCT 2005     State Transportation Improvement Plan Shows Project #71005 "Construct New Interchange at Mine Lick Creek Road" ROW acquisition marked for 2006 and construction marked for 2008. See Adobe Page 41/99. Estimated Cost is $10.3 million.

DECEMBER 2005    TDOT Provides explaination of the Project Evaluation System.

21 JAN 2005   City of Cookeville announces taking an option on property to be in future industrial park. Mayor Doubts that Fifth Interchange will be built. Sam Salee says more industrial properties needed.WARNING! HERLD CITIZEN VERSION OF THE TRUTH

24 MAY 2006    Tennessee Legislature removes protection from land owners when government acts to build roads or build industrial parks. Bill allows transfer of property to private concerns. Charlotte Burkes listed as a sponser.

29 JUNE 2006    Putnam County loans Cookeville $2,452,685 for their share of the Business Park.

14 DEC 2006    TDOT Signs the Environmental Assessment FHWA concures later on 18 APRIL 2008. The connecting road is to have a design speed of 70 MPH and 250 foot wide controlled access right-of-way.

05 JUNE 2006    Tennessee Governor signs bill limiting the ability of the state, county and city to condemn property. PDF FILE HERE

14 DEC 2006    Federal Highway Administration signs off on Mine Lick Creek Road Environmental Assessment.

16 JAN 2007    County Commission votes to listen to Mrs Lynch's side of the story and votes down condemnation request. Warning!: Herald-Citizen Version


05 FEB 2007     Center Hill Regional Planning Meeting votes on transportation projects

06 MARCH 2007     TDOT Holds a public Meeting on the Fifth Interchange

29 JUNE 2007   $5 million transferred out of Putnam county Debt Service Fund to buy an estimated 400 Acre Business Park.

01 NOV 2007     Condemnation of Pyle Property on the City Council Agenda. The vote was unanimous.

12 NOV 2007   The County Planning Commission in a voice vote decides to condemn the Pyle Property.

13 NOV 2007    The Cookeville Chamber of Commerce Refused Tour Editor Access to Engineering Report on the Highland Business Park.

14 NOV 2007     The Chamber of Commerce called a little after 5 PM to advise the Tour Editor that they had prepared a copy of the report that is being used to justify the condemdation of the Pyle Property and that it would be available at the front desk. This turned out to be a truncated version of the Wadley-Donavan Report

12 FEB 2008    The Sheriff Served Mrs. Lynch a summons this morning to initiate the condemnation process on her land.

17 MAR 2008   The City and the County ammend their condemnation suit. This will push back the court date into April 2008.

17 MAR 2008   The Herald-Citizen quotes TDOT spokesperson Jenifer Osborne Flynn as saying that the Fifth Interchange and the Northern Connector are "non related." This suggests that the useless road attached to the interchange can be built later.

18 APRIL 2008    Federal Highway Adnistration, Charles J O'Neil, signs Finding of No Signifigant Impact Statement For Mine Lick Creek Interchange Road And Northern Connector Road.


01 MAY 2008    TDOT puts up a partial electronic copy on their web site of the FONSI. This describes the staged construction of the connecting road from two to four lane but on a four lane right-of-way.

08 MAY 2008    The Lynch Family files a petition for Partition in Kind in Circuit Court. Attorneys ask for legal costs and damages.

09 MAY 2008   Herald-Citizen prints Finding of No Signifigant Impact or FONSI claiming that the Northern Connector and the Fifth Interchange are Connected.

18 JUNE 2008   The City Attorney suddenly discovers that he has to go on vaction on the same day that the City and County are scheduled in court to continue their campaign of eminent domain abuse. The Judge rescheduled the next court date to 21 JULY 08.

03 JUL 2008   City announces on the radio that they are paying $16 million to the Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation to compensate them for land annexed in the past few years.

21 JUL 2008   Judge Turnbull permits the city and the county to witdraw from their previous motion to withdraw from the suit. The judge further suggests that the two parties settle the matter out of court in a judicial confrence in November. The Judge allows further delay, until next year for the city and the county to obtain a Certificate of Public Purpose.

03 OCT 2008      The Herald Citizen reported that The city of Cookeville and Putnam County are seeking a certificate of public purpose and necessity from the state Building Finance Committee of the Tennessee Board of Economic Growth. The Cookeville City Council approved a resolution authorizing City Manager Jim Shipley to apply for the certificate during its meeting Thursday.

09 OCT 2008    the Cookeville City Council applies to the Building Finance Committee of the Tennessee Board of Economic Growth for a certificate of public purpose and necessity for the proposed Highlands Business Park."

14 OCT 2008     County Planning Commission approves petition for Certificate of Public Purpose and Necessity at the regular meeting. Kim Blaylock announces that the Business Park is on a "Fast Track." Linda Owens was denied chance to speak at the County Commission Meeting.

23 OCT 2008    The Lynch Family Attorney, Bob Anderson's Appeal to alter the discretionary finding by Judge Turnbull earlier in the year was denied. The Judge also denied a request that the money held in escrow be held in an interest bearing account.

14 NOV 2008     Centerhill RPO moves Fifth Interchange back down to 2011/2012 time frame after voting 11 projects ahead of it in 2010. Project Manager states that this was at the request of local officials.

17 NOV 2008    The county Commission again refused Linda Owens a spokesperson for Mrs Lynch and the family to address the county commission or accept a written summary of her intended remarks. A resolution to issue general Obligation bonds was passed for the county portion of the $14.28 million of infrastructure costs.

20 NOV 2008    The Cookeville City Council approved a resolution to move forward with a PILOT program of tax incentives and to issue General Obligation Bonds to fund the $7.2 portion of the work in the Business Park. The City Council voted to pay the consultants for their work on water, sewer, gas and road design in the new park.

03 DEC 2008     The city of Cookeville let it be know publicly that contacts with TDOT have been made that suggest that use of connector road that was approved by FHWA and shown to the public in the public meetings could be elimiminated and instead, they wanted a road built by the city and the county to be considered as the connector road. The connector road in the original design was originally designed as a four lane that was part of the Corridor J project. It also was a fragment of a half loop around Cookeville that went from SR111, south of Cookeville to SR111 North of Cookeville.

8 DEC 2008    Recently elected state Representative Henry Fincher criticizes the City of Cookeville for lobbying TDOT to alter the plan for the Fifth Interchange.

27 JAN 2009    City of Cookeville and County Officials request secret meeting with the Department of Economic and Community Development to discuss their application for a Certificate of Need.

05 MARCH 2009    Cookeville and Putnam County gets certificate for an industrial park and a business park for a reduced footprint of about 290 acres. This excludes land under contention because of the partition and condemnation suits.

30 APRIL 2009    Deadline for City/County to respond or withdraw from suit passes. State Supreme Court to hear the case and make a decision, possibly in six months.

03 JUNE 2009    Tennessee Supreme Court hears Eminent Domain Abuse case concerning the government land grab at the Fifth Interchange.

22 JUL 2009    Ammendment moves Fifth Interchange Cost up to $11,210,920

24 JAN 2009    Herald-Citizen finally admits that there is a problem with funding the new Interchange. Federal Highway Administration refuses to certify the Project. TDOT demands local payments to get the project back on track.

28 JAN 2010    Jim Shipley and Kim Blaylock write a letter to the TDOT Commissioner, Gerald nicely and ask to become part of the Local Interstate Connector Program. Copy of the letter is in the ammended Interchange Justification Study.


16 FEB 2010    County Lawyer Jeff Jones tells County Commission that the Law Suit was settled last Friday and that the defendant was only awarded $25k out of the maximum of $150+k that was submitted by her.

16 FEB 2010    Putnam County Commission votes on a blank check commitment to work with TDOT to build the Fifth Intechanghe. County Lawyer, Jeff Jones assured all that the resolution does not contain a dollar amount and can not be considered as a commitment that can fall on future County Commissions. County Executive, Kim Blaylock predicted that this is the only way to keep the project alive. The vote was 3 against and 21 for the resolution.

17 FEB 2010    Cookeville and the County prepare a letter to send to TDOT stating willingness to partner with TDOT to fund the connector and to "step up to the plate," with respect to the cost of the northern connector. That letter is on page 25/401 of the revised Interchange Justification Study. It is signed by Jim Shipley, the Cookeville City Manager and mentions a similar letter written by Kim Blaylock the County Mayor. The county Mayor, state representative Henry Fincher and George Halford. president of the Chamber of Commerce were sent copies of the letter.


12 JUNE 2010    Judge Amy Hollars Hears request for the city and county to pay for the legal fees associated with the condemnation of the Lynch Property.

20 AUG 2010     CENTER HILL RPO MEETING at Leslie Town Center. Fifth Interchange is to be built with a northern connector. The land for a four lane is to be bought but the road is only going to be a two lane road. Chester Southerland announced that TDOT is still waiting on the Federal Highway Administration to give the approval.

23 AUG 2010    Cookeville Planning Commission approves Road Plan with Fifth Interchange and Loop Road as major features.

21 SEPT 2010    First internet hint that the Federal Highway Administration had approved the Fifth Interchange with the connector road attached.

01 OCT 2010     Upper Cumberland Business Journal reports Federal Approval of the Fifth Interchange in a letter dated 14 SEPT 2010

02 OCT 2010    CUMBERLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL Exposes critical details about deal to finish the Fifth Interchange. City/County commits to $14 million last Febuary. This is for engineering and infrastructure inside of the park. Also according to the CBJ, the city/county asked for the connector road and the interchange.

25 OCT 2010     The Cookeville Municipal Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing and consider for adoption the Cookeville 2030 Plan at its October 2010 meeting. This meeting was held at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Cookeville City Hall located at 45 East Broad Street. The Cookeville 2030 Plan is a comprehensive future land use plan for the City of Cookeville and its Urban Growth Boundary. Its purpose is to formulate a coordinated, long-term strategy for the future growth and development of the City of Cookeville.

21 SEPT 2010    First internet hint that the Federal Highway Administration had approved the Fifth Interchange with the connector road attached.

02 OCT 2010    CUMBERLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL Exposes critical details about deal to finish the Fifth Interchange. City/County commits to $14 million last Febuary. This is for engineering and infrastructure inside of the park. Also according to the CBJ, the city/county asked for the connector road and the interchange.

11 OCT 2010 TDOT announces Fifth Interchange. Rep. Hnry Fincher, Senator Charlotte Burks and Representive Charles Curtis in a Photo Opportunity.TDOT ANNOUNCEMENT


03 NOV 2011    RPO Meeting announces delay in the construction of the Fifth Interchange. Right of Way Acquisition is now to be in 2014 and 2015.


?? MARCH 2011   Revised Interchange Justification Study by RPM Transportation Consultants completed. Predicts that the industrial park will generate 20,000 trips per day. Interchange costs now estimated at $13,588,000.

24 MAY 2011   

INDUSTRIAL PARK BREAKS GROUND George Halford quotes scripture: "Without a vision, the people perish" and "Faith without works is dead."

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

17 OCT 2011    Highlands Business Park Gets its first paying customer. The money goes to the Industrial Development Board, not the county.


12 MAR 2012    City Announces that they will complete the Fifth Interchange with their own resources. 2 square mile massive annexation required. 137 homes to be taken in. The county is looking at two schools and a jail to build in the near future and is not able to be partners in this enterprise. The city will oversee the engineering portion of the project. Like magic, the cost of the connector road falls below the previous estimate of $34 million dollars. The time frame to complete the connector is estimated to be eight years. This eight year time frame mirrors the requirements in the FHWA connector regulations dated in 1998.

11 APRIL 2012    Herald Citizen announces that the county will have to approve the Bennet Road project since the City does not yet have control of the property yet. Mayor Shipley suggests that the city may have to annex the property early if the county does not comply.

12 APRIL 2012   Governor Haslem releases TDOT's Three year plan for 2013 to 2015. There is no Fifth Interchange Mentioned. TDOT THREE YEAR PLAN

16 APRIL 2012    Cookeville County Commission saves the Fifth Interchange by approving a non-monetary partnership resolution that allows the city to get state grants for the Fifth Interchange Construction.

18 APRIL 2012     Eric Wegerbauer and TOUR Editor were given 10 minutes on the Dwight Henry moderated early Morning Mayor Program on WHUB to discuss the impact of the Fifth Interchange on local residents.

18 APRIL 2012    Cookeville Area Residents Association meets with the city to discuss the Fifth Interchange.

26 APRIL 2012   Cookeville has a two-hour public meeting at the Chamber of Commerce Building. The Herald Citizen claims that there were 130 people attending. No public discussion was allowed.

21 MAY 2012   Cookeville Planning Commission takes the unusual step of limiting negative public comments( I did not hear any positive comments) about the road plan to three minutes. Any attempt to talk about anything else was prevented, if, in the opinion of the Chairman, Jim Stafne, the comment could be delivered at a later date at a meeting for a different purpose.

31 MAY 2012    7:20 AM WHUB had a discussion of the Bennett Road Extension project by Dr. Ric Finch who rebuked the Planning Commission and their Cahirman, Jim Stafne for creating a chilling effect on effective public comment. Brian Paddock followed up with an observation that the planning commission only approved what was already underway since the engineering has already begun. The morning drive show was hosted by Dwight Henry on his Morning Mayor Program.

19 JULY 2012    Cookeville Planning Commission cleans up some detail on the Bennett Road Extension. The approved plan does not look like the plans that TDOT has published according to one of the impacted land owners, Linda Owens. Once again the city announces that they have no intention of building a four lane road even though there are plans to have two sets of bridges over the Interstate.

21 JULY 2012   TDOT puts on a DESIGN PUBLIC MEETING at the Chamber of Commerce. Public questions invited and comments are due in three weeks. Minutes are to be available in 30 days.

13 SEPT 2012    CARA sends letter to Cookeville City Officials revealing the FOIA research that shows that FHWA policy is flexible on Connector roads. These revelations make it even clearer that the connector road is not necessisarily the doings of FHWA.

19 SEPT 2012    WHUB Announces that J&S construction has filed a change order for $356,468.33 for dust control on Lee Seminary Road. This is the first cost overrun on the Industrial Park. The final bill is expected to be somewhat below this. The City Council will consider it on 20 Sept 2012. The Herald Citizen attributes the problem to the drought. The application of water to control dust. It is not exactly clear if this is the cost of the water or the labor in applying the water or both.

24 SEPT 2012    City Planning Commission approves Annexation for the purpose of building the Bennett Road extension. The estimated cost is $10.9 million. Annual revenue is expected to be $145,444.35 from property taxes from 500 residents. This works out to $290.88 per resident but the city average is only $196.11 according to the 2011 audit.

02 OCT 2012   H-C announces that there is a glitch in getting the park certified. The environmental assessment needs to be re-done?

04 OCT 2012    City Council sets next Public Meeting on the Annexation caused by the need to build the Bennett Road Extension on 15 NOV 2012.

14 NOV 2012 SEPT 2012    CARA Relaease Preliminary Finding on Document Search that confirms again that there is no order from the FHWA to build a Northern Connector.

15 NOV 2012 SEPT 2012    City Council votes to annex 2+ square miles so they can build Bennett Road Extension. Pleas from the residents for a vote were ignored for practical purposes. According to City Manager Shipley, if annexations were a matter of a vote, no city could grow.



1.    The road cost more money than it could ever hope to generate in taxes in a lifetime.

2.    The local Chamber of Commerce says it will be good for the economy

3.    The Chamber of Commerce organizes a pilgrimage to the Governor's office to tell him that everyone wants it.

4.    The local paper tells everybody that if you don't want it your are a NIMBY

5.    The local Chamber of Commerce is telling everyone that we have to do this because everyone else is doing it too.

6.    The local Chamber of Commerce is claiming that we have to do this to get ahead of everyone else who isn't doing it.

7.    TDOT says that it will cure the traffic problems.

8.    TDOT says it won't cure the traffic problems.

9.    The Chamber of Commerce claims that it will be good for the quality of life.

10.    The Chamber of Commerce says it will help get the next factory

11.    Your State Representative just thinks you are against it because of a pre-existing oppositional character flaw.

12.    The Chamber of Commerce is in secret negotiations with the next whiz-bang company that only needs this road to make the whole deal come together.

13.    TDOT is building a four-lane road when a two-lane would still have a high life cycle service level.

14.    TDOT is building a road that will damage your business but does not go through your business. (No blood, No foul)