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Waffle Wednesday Midtown. Get some.

Sooo…. I attended the Kirby Parkway Public Meeting last night at the Agricenter. And there are many items to discuss, so let’s get into the meeting. I wandered into the meeting 15 minutes before 5:00 p.m.

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I thought I would arrive slightly early. “I” was the one that arrived late. There were already more than 100 people in attendance when I walked into the auditorium. Wow. It is good that so many people were in attendance for this public meeting. Yes, I saw many “older” people there. But many young people were also in the audience. Nearly 300 citizens ended up attending the public meeting.

kirby parkway meeting 2013 audience

The meeting was about to get started, when officials attempted to make an announcement from the stage. I say attempted, because the microphones were not working. (Here is a tip from someone who has worked in show business for many years. Before your event, do a sound check. “3,2,1, are we having fun?” Make sure your equipment works. Tip number two; your sound check should not take more than five minutes. Believe me, no one in the audience cares how sharp your sound is. “Did that note sound like an F or F sharp?” I’ve worked sound checks in the past. After 15 minutes of screwing around, I told the crew and band, “Yeah, your done. Good enough.”) After messing about for another ten minutes, the sound was fixed.

Here is a copy of the meeting agenda:

kirby parkway meeting agenda 1

kirby parkway meeting agenda 2

kirby parkway meeting agenda 3 map

kirby parkway meeting agenda 4

Laura Adams spoke to the audience for a few moments about the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC).

Then officials went through the power point presentation rather quickly.

kirby parkway meeting 2013 slide show

kirby parkway meeting 2013 new section 4 (f)

kriby parkway meeting 2013 purpose and need

My impression of the power point was “here is the what will be built”. No alternative plans were shown.

After nearly thirty minutes, it was time for questions and comments from the public. Here are a few notes that I took during the public comments portion. Each person was allowed to speak for 3 minutes. (Although the official on stage kept referring to the 3 minutes as “30 minutes” over and over.)

One gentleman stood and made a good point. “Central Park does not have a highway through the park, and they have more traffic than Memphis”. Another man spoke about the park and said these words, “It is a park. Why does a park need a highway. It’s a park.”

A third man stood before the audience and told a story. “When I was younger, my friends and I decided to go fishing in South America. They had just built a new highway, coast to coast. We came to a village that until recently had been cut off from the outside world. They didn’t have money. So after the highway was built, the children of the village would sleep in tents on the side of the highway, waiting for the tourists. The children would sell visitors coconuts and fruit for money.” (And at this point I am asking myself “What the hell is he talking about? What’s your point man? Are you saying the children of Memphis should stand on the Kirby Parkway roadside and sell fruit? I don’t understand where the story is going.) The man continued to speak. “Roads mean…” I can’t even remember what his point was. Something about how roads connect people or make money or something…

Some speakers asked to see alternatives to Kirby Parkway. Some stated only Walnut Grove needed to be widened and the turn lanes needed to be lengthened. Some speakers said they have been fighting this proposal for 30 and 40 years.

Yes there were others who were in favor of the Kirby Parkway. By my estimate the majority of the audience was NOT in favor of Kirby Parkway (4 to 1).

I am sending in my comments about Kirby Parkway to TDOT and you can to. Here are my thoughts about the project.

“I am the cyclist who was featured on the front page of the Commercial Appeal, Sunday 9/21/2013, crossing Walnut Grove Rd. in the article regarding the Kirby Parkway Project. I bike to and from work Monday through Friday from the Cooper Young area (38104). I cross Walnut Grove Rd. during rush hour traffic twice daily. The intersection of Farm Rd. and Walnut Grove Rd. is one of the most dangerous intersections in town for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. I see motorists on a daily basis failing to yield for pedestrians or cyclists at this intersection. Motorists also ignore speed laws on Walnut Grove Rd and various traffic laws. Motorists attempting to beat the red light at Walnut Grove Rd. and Farm Rd. will run the red light travelling at speeds of 55 miles per hour or faster (when the posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour). Motorists travelling south on Farm Rd. turning east on Walnut Grove Rd turn in the intersection and often fail to yield to let pedestrians and cyclists cross in the crosswalk. I see this on a daily basis. Memphis Police Officers and the Shelby County Sheriff Officers refuse to enforce traffic laws on Walnut Grove Rd. The intersection of Walnut Grove Rd. and Farm Rd. is poorly designed. Traffic lights are not synchronized. Turn lanes are far too short.
The state, county and city refuse to keep sidewalks and roadways properly maintained, and yet they want to build an additional “short cut” (As the project should be properly named, “The Shelby Farms Short Cut”), which the city, county and state will not enforce traffic laws on nor will they keep these roadways maintained. Specifically, Farm Rd. from Mullins (at the north side of Shelby Farms) to Germantown Parkway is used by motorists as a short cut on a daily basis. Although the speed limit on Farm Rd / Smythe Farm Rd. (the southern side of Shelby Farms) is 25 miles per hour, traffic normally moves at 45 miles per hour. Law enforcement fails to enforce speed limits on these roadways.
The “Kirby Parkway Project” is not a project to “enhance” Shelby Farms. Let’s call it what it really is. The Kirby Parkway Project is a short cut for motorists. I have never heard of “enhancing” a park by building a highway through the park. Currently Shelby Farms is not accessible by Shelby Farms visitors on the east and south side because of Germantown Parkway and Walnut Grove Road (two major roadways). The only accessible part of the park to the public as of now is on the west side (Farm Road) and the north side (Mullins Rd). By building a highway through the park, you are cutting off access to the park for the public, leaving only a small portion of the north side of the park accessible to those using the park. I see many signs in Shelby Farms with the slogan “Connect The Park”. The Kirby Parkway Project would only “divide the park” from park users. Shelby Farms does not need an asphalt ring with high speed traffic surrounding the park. The public uses Shelby Farms to get away from traffic. Traffic does not need to be diverted into the park. Over and over I ask Shelby County citizens for their thoughts about a highway going through Shelby Farms. I get the same answer over and over; the Kirby Parkway Project does not make sense.
TDOT informed the public of this meeting via the internet on the TDOT website. The website had stated the public meeting was from 6:00-8:00 p.m. and that the meeting would take place in “Germantown” TN. (The meeting is taking place in Memphis, TN.) I emailed Steve Chipman and Margaret Slater on 9/18/2013 that the city in which the meeting was advertised on the TDOT website was incorrect. Margaret Slater replied to my email on 9/18/2013 and stated that the city advertised on the TDOT website was indeed incorrect and that “we will make the needed corrections”. This correction did not occur. As of 9/24/2013, the meeting place was still listed as “Germantown, TN” on the TDOT website. TDOT officials cannot get the time of the meeting correct or the name of the city in which the meeting will occur in correct. I have little faith in TDOT overseeing a major construction project when TDOT cannot provide the public with simple details about a public meeting.

If the city, county or state are so good at figuring out what Shelby Farms needs, why is the park managed by a non-profit group instead of local or state government? Instead of spending millions of tax payer dollars on a “short cut”, why not invest the same money into Shelby Farms Park? Shelby Farms brings tourists, families and citizens to the park and is vital to the city. A short cut will only cut off our citizens from the park. Shelby Farms is one of the greatest parks in the country, and yet the city, county and state wish to degrade the park with a highway. Officials need to come up with a better alternative to “just build more roads” through a park to solve a problem. Again, a better designed intersection and synchronized traffic lights, as well as law enforcement “enforcing” traffic laws at Farm Road and Walnut Grove Road would improve the traffic flow.”

YOU can get involved as well. Pictured below are the comment forms for the Kirby Parkway Project. Just print out the forms, fill them out, and mail them into TDOT. You may be in favor of the project, you may oppose the project. Let the government hear your thoughts.

kirby parkway comments

kirby parkway comments 2

Done! I am beat. See YOU back here for more bikes, beers and Kirby Parkway. Cheers.

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