KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Starting November 4, drivers will have to find a new route around Knoxville’s Broadway Viaduct.
Since 1927, the bridge has connected north and south Knoxville with over 10,000 cars crossing every day. Despite its historic value, the city says the bridge is too far below standards to try and save.
During the closure, Broadway will be closed from the intersection of Oak Avenue, Worlds Fair Park, and Jackson Avenue to just north of the Depot Avenue intersection. Depot Avenue will also be closed.
The existing bridge is a 746-foot long concrete structure, spanning five railroad tracks and providing four vehicle travel lanes. The bridge shows signs of deterioration, and both vertical and horizontal clearances are at or below current standards.
The planned design consists of replacing the outdated bridge with a new, 62-foot wide structure consisting of two 11-foot travel lanes with a dedicated center turn lane, bike lanes, and sidewalks. The new bridge will be constructed with a clearance of 23 feet.
Nearby construction on the Jackson Avenue ramps connecting to Gay Street is underway, closing through traffic on a section of Jackson Avenue between Broadway and Central Street through late 2020.
Several detour routes are available.
Drivers heading from North Broadway wanting to get to Jackson Avenue can take Fifth Avenue to either Gay Street, or continue down to Hall of Fame, then turn right onto Summit Hill Drive.
Drivers heading from downtown to North Knoxville on Broadway can take Western Avenue to University Avenue, then take Fifth Avenue to Broadway.
KAT bus passengers will also be affected by the viaduct project.
According to KAT staff, Route 22-Broadway is the only route affected, but it will change significantly.
The route will no longer drive alone Summit Hill Drive, which passes several stops.
For the detour, KAT will be continuing north on Hall of Fame to Fifth Avenue to Broadway, rather than the Gay Street detour.
Officials hope the detour won’t affect timing too much, but certain passengers heading from downtown will need to use alternate transportation.
“However, (the detour) does separate the Broadway route from downtown, so we are encouraging Broadway passengers, who are downtown, to use the trolley system to connect to downtown from Knoxville Station,” Belinda Woodiel-Brill, chief planning and public information officer, said.
Many businesses along Jackson Avenue could have trouble keeping a normal flow of customers.
Sweet P’s Barbecue could arguably be impacted the most.
The restaurant is located at the far end of Jackson Ave., unreachable by vehicle from Gay Street due to the ramp project; and soon accessible from North Broadway.
Others close-by, such as Knox Whiskey Works, Balter Beer Works and more, will have similar issues.
The owners of Sweet P’s and Balter Beer are hopeful though, that their current customer base doesn’t forget about them.
“We’re going to be working with (TDOT) on sign placement and making sure that it’s clear to everyone that the road is still open, lanes are not closed. Just the bridge is closed,” Will Rutemeyer, head brewer at Balter Beer Works, said.
Chris Ford, owner of Sweet P’s, said that the city and state has been helpful by not completely shutting off access to Jackson Avenue.
“Right now, with the ramp down, that’s tough for our walking customers downtown. There is a staircase open on the other side of Jackson that brings you underneath, and really it only adds a minute or two to your walk,” ford said.
He said that drivers will have a tough time, but there is plenty of parking and it’s not impossible.
Both Ford and Rutemeyer said they are thinking about hosting a block party within the next year to remind people they are still open.
Ford said that if customers have any issues driving to Sweet P’s, he will pay for their JoyRide.