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Weekend edition April 19, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Pedestrian bridge plans could soon come to fruition

City leaders expect construction could happen in as little as two years, and we could see a completed bridge by 2030.

Nearly two decades in the making, the pedestrian bridge connecting downtown to South Knoxville is finally gaining momentum. Funding is slowly, but surely falling into place.

Most recently, on Tuesday, the City Council approved designating an additional $20 million in state funding to the Knoxville Community Development Corporation (KCDC) for the bridge.

On Thursday morning, city officials joined for an informational meeting at the Knoxville Chamber to discuss the project’s timeline, funding, and opportunities for the community.

“The pedestrian bridge has set the stage for how public and private entities can work together toward economic development, and bettering our communities,” said R.J. Justice, the Chief of Urban Design and Development for the City of Knoxville.

She believes the pedestrian bridge will drive a flurry of new businesses and developments along the waterfront, which could fuel tourism, add jobs, and help retain young people and families in the Knoxville area.

Ben Bentley, the Chief Executive Officer of KCDC was also on the panel. He emphasized Justice’s point, in saying public investment directly impacts economic development initiatives.

“There is a lot more strategic planning behind the scenes that the public may not see,” he shared. “Growth is happening fast, and if we don’t acknowledge and build on that growth quickly, we will miss out on many opportunities and create problems for ourselves.”

He said a part of the solution is to provide more avenues for people to walk and bike, making the city more friendly to tourists.

Bentley shared that about 35 percent of the bridge’s design is complete. There are between nine and 12 months left of design work to make it functional and practical.

“We expect for this bridge to be completed sometime between 2028 and 2030,” he said, adding, “As long as the city gets approved for the $25 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

The recipients of that grant will be announced in June, though city officials said they’re confident it will be awarded for this project.

Read more in-depth about the project plan.

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