Knoxville residents, officials brace for Henley St. bridge closure

Knoxville residents, officials brace for Henley St. bridge closure

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Since 1930, the bridge has spanned the Tennessee River, connecting South Knoxville and downtown. Since 1930, the bridge has spanned the Tennessee River, connecting South Knoxville and downtown.

By WHITNEY HOLMES
6 News Anchor/Reporter

SOUTH KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Knoxville residents, along with city and state officials, are bracing for the upcoming closure and construction on the Henley Street bridge.

Since 1930, the bridge has spanned the Tennessee River, connecting South Knoxville and downtown.

At the meeting, officials with the state Department of Transportation (TDOT) will give the community a bridge repair overview and answer questions about new traffic routes.

The state calls the bridge "structurally deficient." That means it's safe right now for the roughly 40,000 vehicles a day that drive across it, but it won't be for much longer.

That's why an overhaul estimated at more than $30 million is needed.

"The bridge was built in the 1930s so it is a very old structure and over time, Mother Nature and the traffic has really taken its toll," says TDOT spokesperson Travis Brickey.

Extensive work needs to be done to the bridge. The entire bridge beam needs to be replaced, along with the concrete supports leading to the arches.

Brickey says TDOT isn't sure when the work will begin, but they think it will be in 2011.

"It's going to be very delicate to remove the old stuff and keep the arches in tack so right now our structural engineers are saying upwards of 30 to 36 months for it to be closed," Brickey explained.

However, Brickey stresses that the start date and project length are tentative right now.

TDOT's official detour will be for drivers to take Moody Avenue to the James White Parkway.

6 News drove the nearly four mile detour Tuesday. It took about 10 minutes to get to the other side of the Henley Street bridge.

Dual turn lanes on Chapman Highway will be added in both directions to ease traffic congestion for the detour onto Moody Avenue.

TDOT says there are many detours drivers can take.

"Gay Street Bridge will be open. The Buck/Karnes Bridge on Alcoa Highway will be open so there will be other alternates," Brickey explains.

About 14 million vehicles travel the Henley Street bridge in a year and around nine neighborhoods could be affected by its closure.

The affected drivers and residents say they understand the bridge needs to be repaired, but the closure will still be a big inconvenience.

"I think it's crazy," says South Knoxville resident Travis Hubbs. He isn't looking forward to 2011 and say he's concerned about the closure wasting his time and his money.

"There is going to be a lot of gas wasted going to baby appointments because that is where my kid goes over to the health department," Hubbs explained.

The same goes for Vestal resident, Jonathan Trotter. He already has to balance going to work and school and worries how the extra hassle will affect his day.

"I am going to have to take longer routes to school and to work and it may cause me to have a delay because its going to be even busier," Trotter says.

He and other area residents 6 News spoke to say they know the bridge is old and in need of repair, but they hope the work doesn't take the 30 to 36 months TDOT is estimating.

"I hope they hurry up and get it done and not take three years," Trotter says. "I hope they surprise us and get it done in a year-and-a-half."

Residents also have concerns about increased traffic in their neighborhoods. City officials say they'll work closely with residents to address the concerns.

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