North Central Street Project FAQs

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Updated January 23, 2018


The City's $6.15 million North Central Street project is underway and is scheduled to be completed by spring 2019. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the project.

What's happening, and why?

Late last year, the City executed a contract with Southern Constructors Inc. to start the City's streetscape project on North Central Street, between Depot Avenue and Woodland Avenue. The work got underway this month.

Stormwater infrastructure upgrades on North Central Street were begun first. Other improvements to be made over a 15-month period: 

• Sidewalks will be repaired and replaced;
• New curbs will be constructed;
• “Bulb outs,” stamped crosswalks and other features will improve pedestrian safety; 
• On-street parking will be better defined; and
• Bike lane markings will be improved.

One of the most visible components will be a new linear park between Baxter Avenue and Pearl Place. The park will be created with changes to the intersection at Baxter, and the new sidewalks and hardscape of the park will be done in sequence, moving south to north. The landscaping for the park will be planted in either spring or fall 2019, through a separate contract.

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, more than 8,000 feet of water main and 26 fire hydrants through the 13-block, 1.1-mile area, total public investment in the North Central Street Streetscapes Project will be approximately $8 million.

The utility upgrades were necessary – part of KUB’s ongoing maintenance efforts to replace older infrastructure.

The streetscape upgrades will make North Central Street more of a true “Complete Street” – that is, it will be more inviting to pedestrians, bicyclists and those who choose transit. The new North Central Street will allow all commuters to share the corridor.

Where will the work begin? Will all of North Central Street be under construction at the same time?

Crews will work methodically northward from the project’s southern end. Work began at the intersection of North Central Street and West Depot Avenue and will conclude at Woodland Avenue. 

As construction proceeds northward, outer lanes of North Central Street will be closed, while traffic is maintained in the center.

Few full street closures or detours are expected; most of the time, motorists should anticipate lane shifts or flagging around closed single lanes. Access to businesses and driveways will be maintained.

Bicyclists can still ride the North Central Street route, or they could follow signs suggesting detours around construction areas.

How are the City, KUB and Southern Constructors coordinating their roles?

The trio shares a recent history of successfully partnering on a major street project: Last year, the $25 million reconstruction of Cumberland Avenue concluded, on time and within budget.

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 on North Central Street included a section of cast iron water main dating back to 1893.

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

The above-ground streetscape components will be done last.

This coordination – starting with the below-ground infrastructure and working 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.

Will the North Central Street corridor be noticeably greener?

Yes – literally, with the enhanced landscaping, and also sustainably.

The streetscape design will help address stormwater runoff. Adding the linear park, for example, reduces the square footage of asphalt and creates new green space.

The area of green space will be about 43,000 square feet, or roughly 1 acre.

Along the corridor, there will be a total of 47 benches, 10 bike racks and 9 bus stop shelter pads. (KAT later will be installing bus shelters on the pads, using Federal Transportation Authority funds.) In the linear park alone, anticipate 22 benches.

The plantings will be done in either spring or fall 2019, depending on the pace of the infrastructure installation and the weather conditions.

The Central-Baxter intersection will be more aesthetically pleasing, and the infrastructure upgrades throughout the corridor will increase safety for people who are walking or bicycling.

How much of this project is financed with local dollars?

KUB invested the initial $1.85 million to upgrade gas lines, water main and fire hydrants. The City’s portion of the project is budgeted at $6,150,000, including a follow-up $350,000 landscaping contract, so the North Central Street Streetscapes Project investment totals about $8 million.

This project is a partnership in many ways, including how it’s funded. Generally, 80 percent of the streetscape costs are funded by the Federal Highway Administration with management and oversight by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The City will provide a 20 percent match in local funding. 

Overall, the City is investing $1,160,000, plus an additional $350,000 in local funds is budgeted for the separate landscape project.

Here’s a breakdown of the $5.8 million in shared FHWA/City funding:

• Construction – $4,750,000
• Construction engineering inspection services – $650,000
• Design and engineering – $400,000

The City’s total investment of just over $1.5 million is leveraging almost $6.5 million in investments being made by KUB and FHWA.