Cumberland Avenue moves into final stage of construction

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – For years, Knoxville drivers have avoided Cumberland Avenue as crews and orange cones filled the road.

Now, the end is finally in sight for the two-year construction project that began in April 2015. Monday, the eastbound lane of Cumberland Avenue was shifted from 22nd Street to 19th Street, allowing crews to start building the raised medians that are the final state of construction.

“Getting started may have been a little slower than we anticipated, but with the great weather that we’ve had this fall and this winter, we’ve really been able to get a lot done,” said Anne Wallace, deputy director in the office of Redevelopment for the city of Knoxville.

Each phase has been done in stages as a way to be less disruptive and still accessible. Wallace said overall, she has heard that businesses have weathered the construction.

“It’s certainly a nuisance when you’re driving because you can’t always go where you want to go,” said David Greene of Knoxville.

Wallace said in the past developers have said there was confusion and backups when the inside lanes were used for left turn lanes. However, by taking away a lane of traffic, adding that space back to the sidewalks and directing those left turns with a median to the intersections, she believes the city is improving both traffic flow and safety.

The next shift in construction should happen in May or June, according to Wallace. She said the overall project should be finished in August, but there are plans to come back in the fall to finish landscaping.

“It’ll really be an inviting environment and so our whole goal was to set the stage for an economically successful, vibrant and safe Cumberland Avenue,” said Wallace.

The orange cones can be intimidating for people who call Knoxville home and those who don’t.

“Not knowing my way around, not being able to turn where I think that I should be able to turn,” said Kimberly Huffman.

The family is visiting UTK from Germantown and already noticed lots of construction, “As a matter of fact my daughter and I were just talking about it before we came in to get gas, about the amount of construction and how frustrating it can be.”

For restaurants like Brenz Pizza Co., construction has been outside of their front door for some time.

“When I first got here there was a chain-link fence, eight foot tall chain-link fence that went all the way across, three or four in front of the door. So it was pretty hard for people to make it in and out,” said manager Kevin Bachman.

There’s been a shift in business too, it’s busy during lunch and dinner but a bulk of the restaurant’s work is now deliveries.

“The construction has affected us in the back. We had The Standard was being built, up to a few months ago and so our deliveries were hard to make,” added Bachman.

While everyone along the strip waits a little bit longer, some are already starting to see what it’ll eventually look like.

“I think it looks better. I wouldn’t say it looks enormously better yet. But, hopefully it will be looking very good,” said Greene.

“Definitely means growth and a lot of exciting things going on, that’s happening, and hopefully it will be done by the time my daughter gets here,” added Huffman.

For updates on the Cumberland Avenue Construction project, visit the city’s website.

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