(WBIR-Knoxville) A delayed construction project in an already congested area is expected to make problems worse before they get better.
The City of Knoxville announced Thursday that plans to renovate Cumberland Ave. could start as early as June 1. The Cumberland Ave. corridor redesign will first focus on the stretch between 22nd St. and Alcoa Hwy.
Phase I, a six-month construction project, is expected to cost about $4 million. The total streetscape project will cost roughly $17 million in local and federal funds.
Once the work is completed, the city said it will help alleviate some of that congestion drivers experience on the west end of Cumberland Ave.
"We'll be keeping access open to all of the businesses but it'll be just a little bit more congested for awhile," said Anne Wallace, Cumberland Ave. project manager.
Phase I includes adding a turn lane for drivers heading northbound on Alcoa Hwy., as well as higher-performing traffic signals. Crews will also focus on adding and widening sidewalks, resurfacing the road, and putting in new underground storm water and gas lines.
During construction, lanes will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Those lane shifts will only occur between work areas.
According to the city, about 35,000 drivers travel the stretch between 22nd St. and Alcoa Hwy. every day. That number significantly increases on a Vols football game day weekend.
"We originally had hoped to have this project underway earlier this year to allow for the project to be completed before football season got started and the school year got started. Unfortunately, we weren't able to hit those deadlines with the process we had to go through," Wallace said.
Wallace said the city will be working with the University of Tennessee to figure out the best traffic flow routes during a game day.
Even though work on Cumberland Ave. will cause more congestion for those six months, Alexis Parker is hopeful it will help out her commute once it is completed. Parker and her boyfriend, both from Maryville, travel the road almost every day to get to work at Cook Out on the UT Strip.
"We drive about 30 minutes to work and it takes us sometimes 45 minutes because we go down Alcoa Hwy. all the way down to here," she said.
After Phase I is complete, the city will enter Phase II which focuses on improvements from 22nd St. to 16th St.
Wallace said the city will release more on alternative routes when it gets closer to construction.
The city start to seek bids for Phase I this weekend.