Jackson Avenue is getting a face lift but it's going to cause some changes to traffic.
Knoxville Utilities Board crews have been doing some utility relocation to prepare for the city's planned project to replace the ramps connecting Jackson Avenue to Gay Street.
The $9.5 million project is set to begin in early 2019. According to the city, there are some right-of-way negotiations being wrapped up, and then the city will solicit bids and select a contractor.
The project is expected to go out for bids this fall. Once the contractor is selected, a more specific timeline for construction will be in place.
An open house will be scheduled to discuss the details of the project with downtown residents, business owners and other stakeholders.
The Jackson Avenue ramps were built in 1919-20 as a structural component of the original Gay Street Viaduct that spanned the Southern Railway rail yard, according to the city.
In 2008-09, repair work was done on the ramps for the first time since their construction.That was the same time the east ramp at Jackson Avenue was closed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation after a routine inspection revealed an issue with a beam at the west abutment.
If the 98-year-old ramps aren't replaced, the city said they'll continue to deteriorate because they're "structurally deficient".
During the ramp replacement, access will be maintained to area businesses and to the city’s parking lot on West Jackson Avenue.
Those wishing to park in the lot should turn onto West Jackson from Broadway. There will be no through traffic to the West Jackson lot from Central Street/East Jackson.
East-west pedestrian access through the construction zone will be maintained during the project. Pedestrians trying to access Gay Street from Central, or vice versa, should use a metal staircase at the southern end of the Gay Street Viaduct, across from the Emporium Center.
"The Central Business Improvement District is planning to enhance the staircase with artwork and additional lighting," the city wrote on its website.
The historic bricks on the Jackson Avenue ramps will be reused on the new ramps. Apparently, there are even additional areas of brick at the ends of the ramps that are currently covered by asphalt which will be removed, cleaned, and reused in a creative way.
"Possibilities include using them as part of a pedestrian passageway beneath the Gay Street Viaduct or as the surface for the newly-constructed ramps," the city said.