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City re-pitches Washington Pike road widening project with new plan

In this proposal, Knoxville city leaders include changes to the project that would save Twister's Diner.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The City of Knoxville wants to widen part of Washington Pike. Construction would start near the Target in East Knoxville and end at Murphy road. The proposed project would span over about two miles.

It would create a turning lane through that 2-mile section and add sidewalks on both sides. The goal is to ease heavy traffic, but not everyone is on board. Some said the plan was overkill back when it was last discussed in January and were upset construction would destroy a favorite local restaurant, Twister's Diner.

So on Wednesday, city leaders proposed a new plan with a few changes, including a way to save Twister’s Diner. Now people seem to be warming up to widening project

“I think it’s a very good thing,” said Daniel Greene, a community member. “Traffic in the morning and afternoon. You can’t hardly go in or out.”

The problems seem obvious — overworked intersections, not enough turn lanes and too many crashes. Crash data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation show that a crash happens every 4 days at the intersection of Washington Pike and Lifespring Lane.

The city’s plan now includes a shift in road alignment. They’ve also reduced posted speed to 35 mph instead of 40 mph. That allows the community to save Twister’s Diner.

“We’ve got a small retaining wall, 3 or 4 feet tall right next to the shared-use path and that allowed us to save that building,” city officials said.

Another major community concern was the KAT bus stops next to Target. The city proposed a solution they hope would reduce the number of crashes happening in that area.

“We’ve collected 10 years’ worth of crash data and that was the highest spot so what we’ve done is put in a center median in that section so now you can only turn right in and right out from that access point,” city leaders said.

With that, KAT buses will change routes for safety reasons, adding two more stops further down Washington Pike. One bus stop has been proposed next to the church property in that area.

A stop will go on each side of the road; however, these issues weren’t what most were concerned about.

“My connection to this project is that my family settled a farm that’s on the Murphy Road end side of this about 224 years ago,” said Kevin Murphy. “We’re taking measures to preserve it as a farm forever, but a project like this will really impact the character of where that farm sits."

The city said the project will take about $17 million and two years to complete. Once they take all suggestions into consideration construction would start in spring 2024.