Room 471, City County Building
865-215-2027 or 865-215-3837
Starting February 2009, the City will begin an extensive construction project on the 100 Block of Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. Why?
Many Knoxvillians, even those who live, work, or spend time in downtown Knoxville may not know that the street and sidewalks on 100 Block of Gay Street are actually built on a bridge-like support structure, one full story above the original street level.
The supporting infrastructure was built, and the street raised, to connect Gay Street up and over the railroad tracks via the newly-built Gay Street viaduct in 1919.
At that time, Knoxville's railroad tracks were constantly busy moving people and goods to and from downtown and out across the country.
The at-grade railroad crossing at Gay Street had become a safety hazard and an impediment to commerce, and the city constructed the viaduct to move people and vehicles across the railroad tracks safely and efficiently.
The Gay Street viaduct was rebuilt by the Tennessee Department of Transportation in 2005-2006, but the support structure that is holding up the 100 Block has not undergone major repairs since it was built in 1919. It is now in desperate need of major repairs, and the City has set aside capital budget dollars to get the job done.
There are significant and unique challenges associated with this project. The vast majority of the work needs to take place underground. The utility infrastructure is also outdated and, to some extent, improperly aligned. Some of the adjacent buildings extend underneath the existing public sidewalk. Uncertainty about existing conditions in inaccessible locations, and the need to meet new stormwater regulations, compound the challenges. The fact that this block is home to hundreds of people and dozens of businesses means that the stakes are high for completing the project quickly and efficiently in a way that, to the extent possible, minimizes disruption.
The upcoming construction project will rebuild the support structures, relocate and realign all utilities and replace surface-level streetscape features. While the primary purpose of the construction is to fix old and compromised infrastructure, the project's surface-level design includes cosmetic enhancements like wider sidewalks, street trees, and a sidewalk furnishing zone for features like benches, bike racks, etc. that will significantly improve the aesthetic condition of the block.
The City has held several public meetings to inform stakeholders about the upcoming project and seek input about streetscape design and how best to mitigate disruption to the block while getting the project completed quickly, efficiently, and within the budget.