KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Monday marked the start of years of detours for around 10,000 vehicles that travel daily on Broadway north of Downtown Knoxville.
TDOT closed the Broadway viaduct, the long bridge where Broadway crosses a rail yard between Jackson and Depot Avenues. The state is spending $17 million to rebuild the 90-year-old bridge. Construction should be finished by August 2022.
For businesses at the revitalized portion of Jackson Avenue, the closure will require some adjustments for customers and employees.
"The viaduct is the main thoroughfare coming through from North Knoxville into downtown. Our employees, it's going to affect a lot of them and how they drive to work. But the important thing is you can still get here. We've just got to get used to it and adapt," said Richard Hurd, general manager of Balter Beerworks at the corner of Broadway and Jackson Avenue.
The ownership and management at Balter Beerworks knew the plan to rebuild the viaduct had been brewing for a while.
"We've known for years. Actually, since we built the building, we knew it was coming. So, it was just a matter of when, not if. It is a little inconvenient, but there are alternative roads," said Hurd.
Balter may not be impacted as much as other businesses on Jackson Avenue. The brewery still has three main parking lots that are easily accessed from side roads. Signs around downtown point customers in the direction of "bbq and beer."
"Sweet P's put those signs up just to let people know. Because it's basically a dead end down there [at Sweet P's] with the closure of the ramps from Gay Street onto Jackson. You have to drive up Broadway from downtown and then turn right on Jackson to get down to their business," said Hurd.
A couple of months ago, the city shut down access from Gay Street to Jackson to rebuild deteriorated ramps. Construction on the ramps should be complete by September 2020.
The city's downtown coordinator, Rick Emmett, said having two simultaneous road closures for separate projects is difficult for businesses in the area. But both the city and state projects needed to move ahead.
"The longer you delay them, the longer it's going to take to get the job done. We just went ahead and started our [city] project and it's unfortunate it coincided with the state finally getting everything ready. Both of these projects have been in the works for a very long time. But that's the way the timing worked out and we'll get both of those projects done as soon as we can," said Emmett.
Until the ramps and the viaduct reopen, businesses hop customers will keep them on tap despite the inconvenience of a few extra turns downtown.
"Once people get used to where to go and where the roads will be accessible, I don't think it'll be a huge issue. We're all still open and appreciate the support of all our customers," said Hurd.