Improvements turn hazard into ‘opportunity’

By Ken Leinart

It’s been called unsafe, a hazard for pedestrians, and a “pinch point.”

After a brief ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday morning, June 27, in front of Messiah Lutheran Church, it’s now a “safe opportunity.”

It’s not the longest stretch of roadway improvement, but the importance of 1,400 feet of safety features on Kingston Pike near its juncture with Papermill Road was touted as a “tremendous opportunity for our city” by Knoxville City Councilman Andrew Roberto.

Roberto spoke at the ribbon cutting as it lies in the heart of District 2, the district he represents on city council.

Now there are two bike lanes – one on each side of one of the busiest sections of Kingston Pike – an ADA compliant sidewalk, a bus stop, and pedestrian crosswalk across Kingston Pike.

“This short section of Kingston Pike has been a longstanding problem,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said.

The City of Knoxville has worked with Bike Walk Knoxville for a number of years to open a bike/walk pathway stretching from Cedar Bluff Road in West Knoxville to downtown. While that pathway goes through greenways and neighborhoods, that particular point along Kingston Pike had no walking pathways and bicyclists were left peddling on the road with vehicle traffic.

“We would not be here, standing on the side of Kingston Pike, without this project,” Kincannon said. “To be standing here is a testament to the project.”

This stretch of improvement also fits in with another city project.

“This project is heavily aligned with our Vision Zero, which is to move people safely and not have people injured in accidents,” Roberto said. “Completion of this project offers a safe opportunity for people to participate in the many different ways of travel.”

Those different ways include biking, walking, and using Knoxville’s public transportation system, KAT.

Kincannon said the improvements were, “Planned carefully and conscientiously. It’s about safety, about transportation, about getting around our city safely and that’s about saving lives.”

Kingston Pike is one of four “main corridors” of commercial and real estate growth in the city, Roberto said.

“Chapman (Highway), Broadway, Magnolia (Avenue), and right here on Kingston Pike … All of these represent a tremendous opportunity for our city,” Roberto said. “It’s mixed-use along the corridors and it’s something the mayor is very passionate about, and so is council.

“We’ve seen a lot of people move to Knoxville and they’re looking for places to live and for places to be,” he said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation and state leaders were publicly acknowledged and thanked for their contribution to the project, about $1 million of the $2.3 million cost of the initiative.

Kincannon also thanked property owners, mainly Messiah Lutheran Church, for the contribution of their property for the right-of-ways for the project.