Jackson Avenue Ramp Work Is Finally Here – Really

Patches on the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

The target has been moving for years. Close followers of everything downtown will likely believe it when they see it. Two viaducts have been slated for replacement for years. I reported in 2016 that the Broadway demolition would start in 2017 and finish in mid 2019, while the Jackson Avenue Ramp demolition and replacement would start in mid-2018 and would also be completed about now. In 2017, the Jackson Avenue ramp start date was pushed back to mid 2018.

So, now it is 2019 and a press release dated yesterday announced that the Jackson Avenue ramps demolition and reconstruction will begin in August or September of this year. The one hundred-year-old ramps are considered to be at the end of their sustainable life as they have become “structurally deficient.” The total cost is $10.1 million and a $6.5 million contract will be signed with Bell and Associates Construction for the work. The city had previously paid for “design work and right-of-way acquisition.”

Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, March 2019

The project is expected to take about a year and the finished product will include reuse of the bricks currently located on the ramp. In the meantime, the impact on traffic and pedestrian flow will be significant, with no through traffic through that section of Jackson.

One of the primary pedestrian routes to and from the Old City from the 100 block of Gay Street will also be impacted. The new route will have to be the stairs leading from the Gay Street viaduct down to Jackson Terminal. The stairs seem to have gotten a significant increase in usage since the murals were painted on them from top to bottom last year.

Staircase, Old City, Knoxville, August 2018

Also impacted will be parking in the city parking lot on West Jackson, with “a third (64 of 186) of the parking places . . . unavailable during the construction.” The only access to that lot will be via Broadway to Jackson. Pedestrians will be able to walk from West Jackson to East Jackson via a route on the ground beside the parking lot.

Only a small portion of the expense of the project is being borne by the city. $8.1 million is federal money, $1.75 million is state investment and just over a quarter of a million is city money. These investments follow an additional approximately $8 million dollars invested in other improvements to the 100 block, Jackson Avenue Streetscapes and purchase of the McClung Warehouse site and the parking lot.


  1. Gail Mitchell says

    I’m so glad the bricks will be reused! That’s the most charming aspect of any of the roadways in Knoxville in my opinion and I always love to drive that road simply for the feel and sound.

  2. On another note – I noticed there is some new construction going on at 314 Gay Street/the Century building. They are putting in new windows, etc. I hope they are actually going to do something with this finally. Has anyone heard anything?

    • Maybe it means they have new owners? Lord knows H&W doesn’t do anything with their properties.

    • They have been working on that for awhile. On the parking lot side they built an elevator shaft or secondary stairs. Ive seen an ad for the 2nd floor for office space in the past. It looked like it only had one set of stairs in the whole building. No sense in touching the other floors until that got done. Which it is now.

  3. I hope this leads to underground Gay Street finally being reopened.

    • There are numerous offices under the west side of the sidewalk in the tunnel…I used to rent one, in fact. Neat space if you ever get a chance to walk around down there!

      • Just John says

        Neat-o. Are those going to be retained with this reconstruction ?

        • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

          Several years ago I was told that this construction would simply have the intention of doing no harm to what remains beneath Gay Street. It may make a small project or two easier to conceive and execute.

  4. Just John says

    That’s good news—finally, we think, getting it done.

    Do the plans include simply to create a structurally sound replacement, or are there any more-interesting bells and whistles—store/kiosk space in the hollows underneath; wider sidewalks; etc. ?

    On a related construction-diversion note, when will the Broadway viaduct work begin ?

    • Nancy Sharp Voith says

      I’m so grateful that the original 200-year-Old pavers will be reused. Driving over the sound of our original history has always been special and unique……and irreplaceable.

      At one time, there was going to be no effort to preserve that special historic sound that is so much a part of what makes downtown Knoxville the experience it is. If Boston and Charleston and NYC and xxx can preserve street pavers and bricks, I’m glad we figured out a way to do it also.

      Appreciate the update, Alan.

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