KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – We are one step closer to a proposed pedestrian bridge across the Tennessee River connecting the University of Tennessee campus to South Knoxville. The idea has been considered since the early 2000s as a way to develop the South Knoxville waterfront.

The pedestrian bridge plan could be one step closer to becoming a reality after Knoxville city council members approved a plan to hire grant writers in hopes of securing funding for the large project.

“Last night at city council, members of council approved, 8-1, the hiring of CDM Smith to work as a consultant with the city and our other partners on applying for some federal funds to start the pedestrian bridge,” City of Knoxville COO David Brace said. “This would connect the north waterfront and UT to the south waterfront.”

The project would also connect the campus with an 18-mile downtown greenway system and the 45-mile Urban Wilderness Trail system in South Knoxville.

The idea for a pedestrian connecting the South Knoxville waterfront to the University of Tennessee was first mentioned in the 2000 Nine Counties, One Vision, according to Compass Knox. University leaders have said the proposal could help meet the need for student parking, housing and other facilities.

“This PED bridge was in the original vision plan and has moved up to be really viable and there is opportunity there,” Brace said.

“There has been no public meeting to inform the community of these plans or get feedback,” said Janice Tocher, a South Knoxville waterfront advocate. “Perhaps the city needs to be reminded that the best way to get people on the same page with a shared vision is to provide transparency through public meetings.”

Right now, community leaders are saying that it is the perfect time for this development.

“This idea actually came from the South Knoxville community,” 1st District City Council Member Tommy Smith said. “Now, it’s time for the South Knoxville community to come back and say this is how we want to do this.”

“The development takes time and it is finally time to re-envision this idea but it’s important the neighborhoods and the people that live there have a say in how it gets done,” Smith said.

Tocher also said that she has asked for those involved with the grant writing to come to a meeting on February 13th to engage with the public at the Kerbela Temple from 4:00-6:30 p.m.

We also reached out to UT leaders about this proposal and though no one was available to speak on camera they say they are excited about this project.

“There is an energy in the community about what is possible with a pedestrian bridge connector that will make South Knoxville’s growing amenities even more attractive to students, university employees, local citizens and visitors to Knoxville,” a University of Tennessee spokesperson said in a statement.