Henley Street and Nearby Interchanges

Current Satellite View
Current Satellite View

In the most recent guest post by Just John he examined the possibility of converting Henley Street to a multiway boulevard. One question that immediately raises in my mind is the complicated mess of access ramps and lanes. Particularly at the north end exit to and from the interstate. Here’s his answer to those questions:


This complex series of interchanges involves Western Avenue, the interstates, and Summit Hill.  Numerous limited-access over- and under-passes contribute to the difficulty of bridging the otherwise complementary neighborhoods of downtown and Fort Sanders.  A reconfiguration of the streetscapes there would not only simplify the complexity, but would also create space for additional ‘place-making’ to draw people to the area.

Let’s look at what the current configuration reveals. For starters, consider that most of Western Avenue has less than 15,000 trips per day, with the exception of a small part at the interchanges that has almost 20,000 daily trips.  This volume can be accommodated with a three-lane street, rather than the six-lane behemoth currently occupying the space.

Additionally, the roadways are elevated there, isolating the streets physically from their surroundings, and of course requiring expensive over- and under-passes for what is (as the data reveal) not a busy street. Also, the interstate ramps are needlessly duplicative, with ramps from streets only one or two blocks from each other, going the same place. Why? Finally, the current configuration has Western Avenue, Broadway, and the interstate ramps all converging to direct traffic southward to Henley Street.



This fix is complex, but important.  First, we need to ‘right-size’ Western Avenue.  If we are going to keep the downtown interstates (though later we can discuss how we might not need to save them), then Western Avenue should be no larger than three lanes; one travel lane for each direction, and one turn lane.  The ‘recovered’ space can be used for a combination of widened sidewalks, street parking, and planted medians.

Next, we’ll reconfigure the interaction between Western Avenue and Broadway, which earlier in this discussion underwent its own road diet, to a matching three-lane width.  Currently the two have a cross-style intersection, with extra ramp cut-outs for right turns. Let’s instead curve the two streets toward one another slightly, so that two become one smoothly-arced street.  Let’s lower the new grand curve to ground level, where possible, namely, from Grand Avenue after crossing the Norfolk-Southern tracks, through the new curved section to the part of Broadway south of the ‘Downtown Five Points‘ intersection we created earlier.

This ‘grounding’ of the street does several good things to traffic.  It helps re-align the Henley Street ramps.  Currently, the long interstate Henley Street on- and off-ramps flow under the Western-Broadway intersection, continuing south taking up space beside Henley Street for two blocks before actually meeting the street. By removing the intersection at Western and Broadway, we can simply run the interstate ramps to intersect the new arc at ground level, and continue from there as Henley Street proper.  That’s just a simple intersection – either with a single set of traffic lights or with a roundabout.  Removing the long access ramps that currently run beside Henley Street itself in turn narrows the needed right-of-way and makes a more walkable space, and allows Summer Place and Union Avenue to intersect Henley Street directly if we want them to (and why wouldn’t we ?).

It also places the L&N Station School closer to the street level, rather than hidden well below-grade as it is now.  It allows us to makes the intersection of Western Avenue with the adjacent local north-south World’s Fair Park Drive a direct one, rather than requiring the partial cloverleaf (and extra Western Avenue turn lanes) it currently has.  It allows a direct interaction between Grand Avenue or 13th Street with Western Avenue (and possibly a continuation northward to connect Ramsey Street).

This renders completely unnecessary several of the small curved streets currently winding through the ground level of Fort Sanders in that area, specifically, the winding Grand Avenue and the parts of World’s Fair Park Drive west of 11th Street.  We can use that space for development or park expansion. The interstate ramps at Dale Avenue and 11th Street are now completely unnecessary too.  They can be re-purposed (as I describe below).

How does the City benefit from all of this street manipulation?  First, it creates in Western-Broadway a smoothly flowing curved street that links downtown, the World’s Fair park area, and Fort Sanders, helping connect these three districts.  Second, it creates opportunities for real-estate development at multiple sites along the now-ground-level street, from Dale Avenue around to Oak Avenue, including space east and west of L&N, east of Dale Avenue, and in the underused northern-edge parking lots of World’s Fair Park.

Imagine the new curved street flanked by mid-rise buildings or towers of ten-plus stories – a Knoxville interpretation of Bath’s Royal Crescent. The Dale Avenue and 11th Street ramps which we rendered unnecessary, as well as Oak Avenue and Blackstock Avenue, can easily be re-purposed to allow drivers access to the empty spaces nearer to the interstate where, as we did in East Jackson-Depot, we can put parking lots or garages for the new population, hidden behind the Western Avenue street-facing development.

Map Incorporating all the Proposed Changes
Map Incorporating all the Proposed Changes

Next:  We’ve worked on connectivity at the northern edge and the western border road of the downtown core.  We’ll look a little further west to the far side of Fort Sanders.


Useful Links:

Refer to prior sections for Road Diets and Building Under Highways.



Rick Emmett, Downtown Coordinator:
Room 470B, City County Building
Fax: 865-215-232

Bob Whetsel, Director of Redevelopment:
Room 655, City County Building
Fax: 865-215-3035

William Lyons, Chief Policy Officer, Deputy to the Mayor:
Room 655, City County Building
Fax: 865-215-3035

Thomas Strickland, Jr., Community Relations Director & Special Assistant to the Mayor:
Room 645D, City County Building
Fax: 865-215-2085

Dawn Michelle Foster, Deputy Director of Redevelopment:
Room 655, City County Building
Fax: 865-215-3035

Mayor’s Office:
Room 691, City County Building
Phone: 865-215-2040
Fax: 865-215-2085
TTY: 865-215-4581 (for all depts)