KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After three years of work and millions of dollars later, Knoxville drivers will once again be able to use the Broadway Viaduct, starting Wednesday, Aug. 31.
The bridge serves as a critical connection between North and South Knoxville. When in use, Tennessee Department of Transportation Spokesperson Mark Nagi said the bridge services around 10,000 vehicles per day.
The new structure replaces the original bridge built in 1927.
While some residents remember what travel was like before the bridge was closed, for others, this will be the first time seeing the road in action.
Many nearby business owners, including Glitterville owner Stephen Brown, now look forward to having a construction-free zone.
“We went to Europe or Asia and everything was fine when we left,” Brown said. “When we returned, the bridge was closed and, actually, even that road was closed. So in our time, we’ve really never known all the roads to be open.”
“All the props that construction requires will be gone and we can reclaim this corner as a really sparkly spot,” said Brown.
“Hopefully it’ll drive some people down here just make it a little easier for them to get down here,” said Jonathan Ford, co-owner of Sweet P’s Barbeque & Downtown Dive.
It’s a sentiment shared by local drivers and residents.
“I was going to move into this apartment two years ago and this bridge was in shambles,” said resident Judah White. “There was about a million construction machines hacking away so, thankfully, we didn’t move in there, but now it’s opened up so I’m sure people have peace and quiet over here now.”
Despite the three long years of construction, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) says the payoff will be worth it.
“The structure has two lanes with a dedicated center turn lane,” said TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi. “There are also sidewalks, on the bridge and there’s also bike lanes and pedestrian access so it’s going to make for a safer bridge as well for both motorists and pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Although drivers will be able to use the bridge beginning Wednesday, Aug. 31, there will still be crews around that are finishing smaller parts of the project. This means pedestrians and bicyclists won’t be allowed to use the bridge for another few weeks.
Bridge reopening sparks concerns
Although many people are excited for the bridge to reopen, there is a major concern.
For three years, many of Knoxville’s homeless population have used the underpass and sections of Broadway for shelter. Because of that, the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission (KARM) is warning drivers to be extra cautious when driving through the area.
“We are reminding our guests and other homeless men and women in the area to begin using caution when crossing Broadway,” said Todd Gilbert, KARM’s Chief Operating Officer. “For almost three years, our homeless neighbors have gotten used to Broadway being closed. The 400 block of Broadway has become like a cul-de-sac, and this Wednesday it quickly turns back into a busy, four-lane road.”
KARM is also reminding drivers to be aware that many of the city’s homeless population suffer from mental health issues, meaning they are not always aware of their surroundings, i.e. cars.
“They’re used to crossing the street and not looking for cars,” Gilbert told WATE. “Now that we’re about to open up, 2,000 plus cars will be coming through this on average every single day.”
Click here to look at previous updates from TDOT regarding the Broadway Viaduct.