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Knoxville Regional
Transportation Planning Organization

400 Main St, Suite 403
Knoxville, TN 37902

email: contact@planeasttn.org
phone: (865) 215-2500
fax: (865) 215-2068

Daily Times: Blount Part of Five-County Growth Plan

Posted 08/10/2011

The ultimate goal of a $4.3 million planning grant is to come up with a blueprint for growth, improved health and transportation for this five-county region.

By Iva Butler ivab@thedailytimes.com

A plan for the region would promote affordable housing, enhance economic competitiveness, target federal funding for community revitalization and safeguard rural landscapes.

Alcoa Assistant City Planner Jeremy Pearson said in addition to the $4.3 million, the region will provide $2.5 million in services through partnerships.

A consultant has been hired and a State of the Region report composed, he said.

There will be three reports over the three years of the project, he said.

There were 45 grants awarded nationwide in the first year’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency.

The State of the Region gives a snapshot into life in the area, both the good and the bad.

It breaks livability down into categories — healthy people, air and water quality, economic competitiveness, housing and affordability and transportation and land use.

Healthy people facts

Blount County ranks just above Union County as the most challenging place in our region to live with asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Knoxville ranks fourth most-challenging in the country.

Tennessee is the second most obese state in the U.S. and the fifth most sedentary, according a study of the Trust for America’s Health.

Within the region, obesity among children (ages 6-11) increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008, while obesity among adolescents (ages 12-19) increased from 5 percent to 18.1 percent.

In 2004, the prevalence of diabetes across the region was 8.6 percent of the total population.

More than 16 percent of low-income people in the region live more than one mile from a grocery store. In Union County that percentage jumps to 41 percent.

People age 60 and over comprise almost 21 percent of the total regional population, while state and national shares are 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Air and water quality

Blount, Anderson, Knox and Loudon counties register some of the highest numbers of days for harmful levels of particle pollution and ozone among all counties in the state.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) listed 781 miles of streams through the region as impaired or in violation of water quality standards. The total was 246 miles in Blount County alone.

Economic competitiveness

A total of 16,079 people commute from Blount County to Knoxville to work, 1,262 to Anderson and 996 to Loudon counties.

On the flip side, 7,822 commute from Knox to Blount, 1,096 from Loudon and 724 from Anderson. Only 161 commute here from Union County.

Thirty-seven percent of the region’s population has a college education, slightly higher than U.S. and state averages, but that number is boosted by above-average rates in Knox County. The other counties in the region are well below average.

Unemployment in all five counties is lower compared to state and national rates.

Education and health care industries are the largest sectors in the region with a 27 percent share of total employment.

U.S. Department of Energy is the top employer in the region with over 13,000 employees. UT reports 11,900 and Covenant Health has nearly 9,000, rounding out the top three.

Average weekly wages are greatest in Anderson County ($910), while Union County registers the lowest ($617). The figure in Blount is $739 and Knox is $741.

The region reported median household income ($45,156) at a higher level than that of the rest of the state ($41,725); however, the region is lower than that of the U.S. median ($52,221).

Housing and affordability

The median value of owner-occupied housing units in the region ($153,100) is higher than the state level ($137,300) but lower than the U.S. median ($185,200). Regional value is boosted by above-average values in Blount and Loudon counties.

The financial demands of home ownership has exceeded the ability of many local owners to properly maintain their homes. More than 40 percent of housing units across the region are in need of minor repairs, with 7,300 units requiring extensive repairs or deemed unsound for occupation.

The poverty threshold for a four-person family is about $22,000. The share of families and persons living below poverty level across the region is slightly higher than the U.S., but lower that the state average.

Transportation, land use

Almost 90 percent of the region’s household spend more than 45 percent of income on housing and transportation costs combined.

Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) is the only fixed-route transit system in the region.

Vehicle miles traveled per capita per days was 33.8 miles in 2008 for the Knox Urbanized Areas, an increase from 25.9 in 1990.

Eighty-five percent of commuters in the region drive to work alone, compared to 76 percent across the U.S.

Regionwide, the average travel time to work is 22 minutes. The national average is 25 minutes.

Agriculture, forestry and vacant land make up more than half (53.3 percent) of all land uses by type in the region.

At just under 86 persons per square mile, the region’s lowest population density is found in Union County, consistent with the predominantly rural settlement pattern, a third of which is farmland.

Originally published by The Daily Times on July 31, 2011

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