Central corridor to get near $8 million upgrade

Sandra ClarkInside 640

Stormwater infrastructure upgrades on Central Street will get underway before the end of this year – the next major step in the city’s $6 million upgrade of the street corridor that connects downtown and North Knoxville.

City Council has unanimously authorized Mayor Madeline Rogero to execute a $4.7 million contract with Southern Constructors Inc., the same Knoxville-based firm that completed the $17 million Cumberland Avenue reconstruction on time and within budget.

Once the Central Street contract is finalized and the stormwater system upgrades get underway, look for a series of other improvements to be made over a 15-month period. Investments will be made to repair and replace sidewalks; construct new curbs, “bulb outs” and other features to improve pedestrian safety; better define on-street parking; and improve bike lane markings.

To complete the project, Central Street between the Old City railroad tracks (near Depot Avenue) and Woodland Avenue will be resurfaced.

One of the most visible aspects of the city’s streetscape project will be the creation of the new linear park between Pearl Place and Baxter Avenue. This block, with enhanced landscaping, benches and other amenities, will serve as a gateway to Historic Happy Holler.

Combined with Knoxville Utilities Board’s $1.85 million investment to upgrade gas lines, water main and fire hydrants through the 10-block area, the total public investment in the Central Street Streetscapes Project is expected to total $7.85 million.

KUB has completed its part of the project. As with the Cumberland Avenue project, KUB, in partnership with the city, went first with its upgrades. KUB’s work to replace and upgrade the water and natural gas infrastructure included a section of cast iron water main dating back to 1893.

The city’s stormwater system improvements will follow; in one case, pre-World War II clay pipe will be replaced.

The above-ground streetscape components will be done last.

That coordination – starting with the below-ground infrastructure and working methodically upward to the above-street level components – shortens the duration of the overall work and increases efficiency. Road and lane closures are minimized, and project costs are reduced.

“Aging infrastructure is a problem across the country, but KUB’s Century II program helps us avoid bigger problems down the road,” said Mintha Roach, KUB president and CEO. “It’s even better for customers when we can coordinate our work with the city’s improvements.”

Anne Wallace, the city’s deputy director of redevelopment, said the streetscape design also helps address stormwater runoff. Adding the linear park, for example, reduces the square footage of asphalt and creates new green space.

“The Central-Baxter intersection will be greener and more aesthetically pleasing, and the whole corridor will be more welcoming,” Wallace said. “These improvements also will make it safer for people who are walking or bicycling.”

The project – 80 percent funded by the Federal Highway Administration, with a 20 percent match in local funding by the city – is scheduled to be completed by early 2019. The plantings will be done in either spring or fall 2019, depending on the pace of the infrastructure installation and the weather.

– A city of Knoxville press release from Eric Vreeland



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