Work could start as early as June 1 on Phase I of the Cumberland Avenue Corridor street redesign – an estimated $4 million six-month construction project that aims to ease traffic clogs on the western end of the corridor.


The Tennessee Department of Transportation has given the City the Notice to Proceed to Construction on Phase I, the stretch of Cumberland Avenue between 22nd Street and Alcoa Highway. The City will advertise to begin seeking bids starting this weekend.


Work will include putting in new underground stormwater and gas lines to support new commercial and residential developments in the area. (Some of the utility infrastructure predates World War II.) The project also will add and widen sidewalks, resurface the road and purchase new, higher-performing traffic signals.


“But the really big key will be the improvements atAlcoa Highway,” said Project Manager Anne Wallace with the City’s Office of Redevelopment.


Currently, motorists trying to access northboundAlcoa HighwayfromCumberland Avenueare frequently getting snarled in backups.


One problem is that there’s currently no dedicated turn lane onto northboundAlcoa Highway, just a lane that’s shared by exiting vehicles and through traffic. Another problem is an antiquated signal at Metron Way and Cumberland that doesn’t function well and doesn’t always allow vehicles turning west fromVolunteer Boulevard onto Cumberland to clear the nearby intersection.


Another reason for traffic hassles on this stretch of road: It carries approximately 35,000 vehicles a day, the highest traffic volume along the Cumberland Avenue Corridor.


Among the planned traffic-flow fixes: Phase I will modernize the traffic signalization plus add a specified turn lane onto northboundAlcoa Highway.


Almost as soon as the Phase I work is completed, the larger Phase II project is anticipated to get under way. But the Phase I improvements – especially the smoother-flowing intersections at Volunteer and atAlcoa Highway- will give motorists more options for avoiding the Phase II construction work, Wallace said.


Phase II calls for a $13 million redesign of Cumberland Avenue from 22nd Street to 16th Street. The work includes new underground utilities, new signals, new sidewalks, the addition of turn lanes and new medians, plus landscaping, benches and pedestrian-scaled lighting.


City officials say the total $17 million investment in the Cumberland Avenue Corridor so far has already leveraged more than $100 million in investment from private developers.


“I’m very excited to get Phase I under construction and see the project come to fruition,” Wallace said.


“Phase I is intended to help improve traffic flow in one of the most congested areas along the corridor. This work sets the stage nicely for Phase II by improving some alternative routes for getting around the second round of construction.”