KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new crosswalk near downtown Knoxville hopes to give schoolchildren a safer way to cross the street while increasing walkability near an affordable housing project.

Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC), Bike Walk Knoxville and Green Magnet Academy joined together to create a signalized crosswalk near the corner of E. Summit Hill and Lula Powell Drive. According to city leaders, the crosswalk will ensure a safer route for First Creek at Austin schoolchildren attending Green Magnet Academy.

The idea for the crosswalk came from a 2022 Bike Walk Knoxville event where elected officials joined community members for a walk near First Creek at Austin. The executive director of Bike Walk Knoxville described the walk as a terrifying experience.

“Thanks to that event, we were able to put in a crosswalk so that the families in this community can safely cross Summit Hill safely and get to their destination,” said Lindsey Kimble, executive director of Bike Walk Knoxville.

“A signalized crosswalk enhances the residential community not only for schoolchildren, but also adults and other pedestrians,” said KCDC Vice President of Redevelopment Jim Hatfield, who led the development of First Creek at Austin for the organization. “I appreciate the partnerships and cooperation of everyone to bring this critical safety feature to reality.”

The new crosswalk also comes as phase II of First Creek at Austin is expected to open soon, bringing more affordable housing to Knoxville. Additional plans for the community include a park, early childhood center, community space and resident gardens.

“The First Creek at Austin development centers on connectivity and creating a true residential and walkable neighborhood with open spaces,” said Ben Bentley, KCDC executive director and CEO. “The crosswalk aligns well with the vision for enhancing the urban community.”

The city also plans to make improvements at the intersection of Summit Hill Drive and Harriet Tubman Street to make walking around the First Creek community safer. Overall, the city has invested $14.1 million in infrastructure support connected to the First Creek at Austin project.

The new crosswalk is also one of many traffic changes being made around Knox County to improve safety for both pedestrians and motorists as the population grows.

“With the growth that we see in the urban area, the more likely it’s going to be for people to want to walk or bike to places. And we need a lot more of these connections. There’re pockets of Knoxville where you can easily walk. You can easily bicycle safely and get from point A to point B. But that’s not everywhere,” said Bentley. “Small projects like this are going to move the needed more overtime and as density grows in the urban core, we’re going to need more and more of this.”  

Other projects seen around Knox County to increase walkability include a bridge and boardwalk built on Northshore Drive, and new sidewalks, and crosswalks at the intersection of Maynardville Pike and Ledgerwood Road.