Actually, one is a viaduct, but they are on the same road, aren’t very far apart and where one is currently causing headaches, the other will eventually start to do so. So, we’ll consider them together.
The biggest bridge construction project in Knoxville in many years, of course, is the Henley Street Bridge Construction. The bridge was closed in January 2011 as the project began and it was slated to end June 2013. Along the way problems have arisen. Two people have died and workers continue to maintain that conditions are not safe. The Tennessee Department of Transportation maintains a website chronicling its progress. The most recent update on Jan 2 indicates nothing is amiss.
But something is amiss. Just two days after that recent update, came news that three sets of piers on the bridge will have to be rebuilt entirely, rather than repaired. So far, no estimate has been given as to how much time this will add to the already slow construction project. No one has speculated as to additional costs. We’re told there will be more answers by mid-month – which is next week. Some have asked why this could not have been known earlier or whether it might not have been better to simply start from scratch just over two years ago. Both seem like good questions, though at this point they are hindsight.
Of course, another regret we may always have when looking back on this period is the lost opportunity to do something about the volume and speed of traffic on Henley Street and the separation it causes between downtown proper and UT/Fort Sanders. I wrote about it two years ago as did several people. Jack Neely wrote about it again, just last week. The vision of a boulevard with pedestrian friendly traffic flow may never have been practical, but it might also have transformed the city if we’d found a way to do something.
Meanwhile, just as the Henley Street Bridge project seems to be stretching out a bit, another project looms that will also be very disruptive to traffic on Broadway. While this won’t impact interstate to South Knoxville traffic or its reverse, people wishing to travel from south Knoxville to Old North or beyond via Broadway will be in trouble soon. Widely reported as having a start date of “2013,” the Broadway Viaduct over the Norfolk Southern Railways will begin.
The project has an interesting history even before it starts. A couple of months ago Metropulse detailed what has been and will be lost. I’d mentioned before that the interesting row of buildings along the bridge will be destroyed. They are actually perched atop a building and the rest of the building will remain. Two small businesses have already been forced to relocate and the building that housed Pumps of Tennessee has been destroyed as you can see in the pictures I’ve included.
Will this project which has been discussed since 2002 be delayed until the Henley Street Bridge is finished? A bigger worry for me since the new viaduct will have a different trajectory which was manipulated to meet the needs of Norfolk Southern (they wanted double-decker cars to be able to pass through) and ATandT (which wanted some of their infrastructure undamaged, so one end had to be lower): will the new plan impact Depot Avenue?
I’ve detailed it before as a potential development corridor and in fact there has been some movement in that direction which I’ll discuss later, so I don’t want to see that lost because of another road decision which was dictated by ATandT who already have the ugliest building in the city.