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Broadway Viaduct reopening raises safety concerns for new traffic around KARM

The Broadway Viaduct is reopening Wednesday after years of work, providing a direct path between downtown and the North Broadway corridor once again.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Transportation said the Broadway Viaduct will reopen Wednesday for the first time in years. 

For nearly three years, the bridge on Broadway has been closed above the railyard from Depot Avenue to World's Fair Park.

Knox Area Rescue Ministries, which operates at the section that was closed to thru traffic at Fifth Avenue, is now concerned that this overnight change will prompt the need for extra caution and safety due to the new surge of traffic, especially for people it serves who are experiencing homelessness. 

"One of our concerns is that for the past three years, it has sort of been a cul-de-sac down here with the bridge barricaded right on the other side of KARM. And so our guests and other men and women struggling with homelessness in Knoxville, they have not had to worry about traffic so much in this block," said KARM communications director Karen Bowdle.

The construction at Broadway Viaduct began in 2019 after years of community discussions about upgrading the bridge. Dating back to 1927, TDOT said this bridge was severely deteriorating and needed renewal.

The new bridge has two 11-foot long lanes with a center turn lane. The new plan also includes bike lanes and sidewalks that will be finished after the road construction. TDOT said those improvements will most likely finish later in the fall. 

The new bridge is planning to reconnect North Knoxville with a direct path to downtown, and KPD is warning extra caution for safety to adjust to this change.

"Safety is always the top priority at the Tennessee Department of Transportation for vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, whatever it may be on all of our structures, bridges, state routes especially, and interstates," Mark Nagi, TDOT spokesperson said.

Before construction more than 10,000 vehicles passed through every day Nagi said. Now they are expecting this traffic to grow even more. 

"Please be safe," Bowdle said. "Please slow down a little bit. Please have your eyes open. Please don't be looking at phones. Please. Just keep your eyes out for men and women in this area, who over three years have been used to not having to think about traffic coming through this area."

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