Those who have to make a daily trek on Chapman Highway are well aware of the busy road’s complications. Consistent car accidents and fatalities make it evident that the well-traveled highway is a breeding ground for danger. In fact, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, nearly 44,000 cars travel the highway each day.
The highway’s never-ending accidents and complaints make South Knoxville and Seymour drivers scratch their heads at the lack of a safer route. Local drivers are not the only ones who view Chapman as a threat.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, even Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) commissioner John Schroer wrote in 2014 letter that “TDOT remains concerned that our efforts to improve conditions along Chapman Highway will not be sufficient now, and particularly in the future.” Five years later, Chapman Highway remains overpopulated and menacing. Its threats can be seen in recent fatal accidents within recent years along the roadway.
The lack of another major roadway within South Knoxville and Seymour was not the intended plan for the area.
In the years prior to 2012, the idea of extending the James White Parkway from Moody Ave. to John Sevier Highway was viewed as a potential saving grace from Chapman’s death-ridden grips as it would have fewer areas to stop, fewer turning lanes and a faster flow of traffic. In fact, James White Parkway had made its way to the desk of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), which is essential in order for potential roadways to be discussed. However, in 2013, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero removed the James White Parkway extension plan from the TPO agenda due to the parkway’s potential negative effects on the Urban Wilderness, according to a 2016 article by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Interestingly, a 2012 poll from another publication revealed over 80% of South Knoxville residents are in favor of extending the parkway from Moody Ave. to John Sevier.  In lieu of extending the James White Parkway, Rogero had suggested revamping Chapman Highway by widening the road and adding more turning lanes. According to TDOT’s website, the overview of the Chapman Highway transformation process would include “widening the existing roadway to five lanes (two lanes in each direction with a dedicated center turn lane), except for the section between Tittsworth Springs to White School Road in Sevier County, which will be transformed into a three-lane cross section with dedicated passing lanes and paved shoulders.”
Though Rogero supports the widening of Chapman Highway, funding has “not yet been identified,” according to TDOT’s description of the Chapman Highway project. Therefore, no upgrades have since been implemented.
Because the James White Parkway had been cut from the TPO agenda, it has long since been visited, and Chapman remains an accident-prone hodgepodge.
However, hope may remain for the James White Parkway, as Mayor Glenn Jacobs considers the parkway to be a turning point for South Knoxville and Seymour drivers to drive safely.
“I understand the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy our natural beauty,” Jacobs said. “At the same time, ensuring the safety of the traveling public is paramount, and we must address the dangerous conditions on Chapman Highway. I think that we can achieve both and am looking forward to working with the city and state to find a resolution that addresses both of these issues.”
Jacobs held a meeting in South Knoxville last Tuesday to address community concerns. However, until the James White Parkway returns to the TPO list, the county and state’s chances of reconsidering the extension of James White Parkway are slim.