It’s been a little more than a year since construction wrapped up on a big project to change Cumberland Avenue. Crews were working to make the “strip” near UT’s campus more attractive, economically successful and safe.
Once construction finished, the city did a traffic study on Cumberland Avenue that was completed this fall.
To sum it up, the project manager said they found the street is safer, saying people are able to move through the area with less headache and safety issues.
Cumberland Avenue today looks different than it did about three years ago. The lanes are reduced from four to three, the left turns are separated from the flow of traffic and the sidewalks are wider.
“We feel like the project really has met the goal of improved safety and also creating a more vibrant and enjoyable economically prosperous area. We were seeing a lot of vacancies and turnovers, and we’re starting to see a lot more investment and new buildings,” said Anne Wallace, deputy director for the Office of Redevelopment.
Businesses also weighed in.
“We’ve rebounded pretty well this last 18 months. It’s over. It looks different. It looks nicer. We’re excited that it’s over and we’re ready to move on into the future,” said Kit Housley, the general manager at Copper Cellar.
“When they started the construction I will admit I was not a big fan at first because of the noise and the congestion, but when I saw the results I totally changed my opinion,” said Ariel Henderson, who works at Oscar’s and has worked at different places on Cumberland for three years. “I spend a lot more time on the strip than I did before. Before I went to work, came home, wasn’t really interested in going to all the other businesses outside of my job, but now I basically live my entire life on the strip.”
The road itself was the focus of a recent traffic study.
“What we expected to happen is actually happening. We’re seeing about a 10 to 20 percent diversion from Cumberland in terms of the number of vehicles traveling the corridor,” Wallace said. “The four-lane cross section really, unfortunately, was not functioning well because we had all of those unexpected turn movements. And so there were times that when the four-lane cross section was in place we would actually hit gridlock all the way from Alcoa Highway to 16th Street. What we’re finding with this model of street, the three-lane cross-section, is that while traffic may be moving a little bit slower it’s moving more consistently.”
Project leaders say they also found a reduction in the number of car crashes on Cumberland. Those, they say, have gone down between 25 and 40 percent.