City makes plans to ease downtown traffic

The City of Knoxville is working on plans to make downtown easier to get around. The Downtown Circulation and Mobility Plan aims to ease traffic flow. 8-13-14

(WBIR- Knoxville) The City of Knoxville is planning to make downtown easier for traffic and people to move through the area.

The Downtown Circulation and Mobility Plan is supposed to be finalized by September, said Jon Livengood, City of Knoxville transportation engineer.

The plan aims to ease traffic flow for cars, buses, walkers, and bicyclists, he said.

"We've heard that for visitors that aren't real familiar with downtown Knoxville, it's hard to get around with our one-way streets," Livengood said. "Just looking for a parking spot, and you go around the block and keep going around looking for spots."

He said Knoxville has an "abnormally high" amount of one-way streets compared to other same-size cities. One of the main objectives of the project is to change a lot of the one-way streets into two-way streets.

However, on a section of Union Avenue between Walnut Street and Locust, the city is planning to change a two-way street into a one-way street to continue with the one-way eastbound movement of the of Union Avenue.

Some of the businesses on that block are opposed to the change.

"We have a hard time just getting people from Market Square two blocks over onto the 500 block of Union so it would really hinder business on our block I think to only be one way," said Amanda Taylor, an owner of John Black Photography. "It really helps us that we get two way traffic."

"I would like for it to be kept a two-way street," said Johnna Easter, associate publisher of Knoxville Magazine. "We chose this location to be part of an active, vibrant community, and our retail locations provide that for us, and I think two-way is much better for our neighbors on the street."

According to the proposed plans, the city would need support from the business owners on that block of Union Avenue in order to move forward.

Livengood said by making the stretch of Union Avenue a one-way street, it would allow for the possibility of on-street parking.

"We don't want to do anything the public's completely against," he said. "The businesses may not be aware of the benefit they're getting."

The project plans also include adding turn lanes and restricting parking on Gay Street to allow traffic to flow more easily, Livengood said. Even though parking will be reduced in that area, he said the project will overall increase downtown parking.

He said the city would also like to connect the surrounding neighborhoods, such as West Knoxville and the university area, to downtown with bike routes.

Livengood said a budget has not been set for the project, but he does not anticipate the costs to be very large since most of the work will be re-striping roads.

He said the circulation and mobility plans could go before the city council later this year or early next year.


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