Knoxville officials say Cumberland Avenue project needs more money and more time

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The city of Knoxville says it is committed to a re-vamp of Cumberland Avenue, despite continued problems finding a contractor to do the work. WATE 6 On Your Side has been following the process for years as the city aims to improve the look and feel of the UT strip area, while making it more pedestrian friendly. Twice now the project has gone out to bid and twice it hasn’t worked.

Knoxville officials say the city now needs an additional 12 to 13 million dollars, plans may need to be scaled down, and there could be construction during football season.

“Game days are probably the one thing that’s really tough,” said Sunspot chef Brandon Cruze.

He says Cumberland Avenue traffic on UT game days is already hard on business, but with new delays on the corridor project, possibly pushing construction to football season, it could get a lot worse.

“You know, finding parking will be hard for them. They might not even come down here just to have to deal with that mess,” said Cruze.

The project is supposed to ease traffic-flow, upgrade utilities, and make the area more urban and attractive.

Sunspot chef Brandon Cruze
Sunspot chef Brandon Cruze

“It’s a big project, but it’s a very important project. It’s a once in a lifetime project,” said Knoxville’s Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel.

With only one bid that was 14 million dollars over the city’s estimate, Whetsel said the city has no choice but to sacrifice the original timeline. He said contractors felt like there were too many restrictions from the city when it came to construction. He wants to make the plan more lenient, look for ways to simplify the project, and hopefully get some more competition this time around.

“Probably the estimate should have been higher but we also think the bid was a little bit high because there was only one person doing it at that time so there wasn’t a lot of competition. So we’re hoping to make a few changes and when we put it back on the street, get some competition, drive the pricing down,” Whetsel said.

Knoxville’s Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel
Knoxville’s Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel

Whetsel said he promised all of Cumberland Avenue businesses that the city will be moving forward with the project. With more than $200 million in private investments, he says infrastructure is the city’s responsibility.

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