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New Jackson Avenue West Ramp About to Open; East Ramp to Open by Mid-January 
The $8.7 million Jackson Avenue Ramps Replacement Project is coming to a close. One ramp is imminently reopening, with the other to follow in a few weeks.

The project began last fall with the demolition of the structurally deficient century-old ramps at Gay Street and Jackson Avenue. They were replaced with 21st-century safety-engineered new ramps, designed and detailed to pay homage to the style of the vintage originals.

From left: Mayor Indya Kincannon; Rick Emmett, Downtown Coordinator; Ryan Henley, Vaughn & Melton; and Andrew Luttrell, Engineering Department.

From left: Mayor Indya Kincannon; Rick Emmett, Downtown Coordinator; Ryan Henley, Vaughn & Melton; and Andrew Luttrell, Engineering Department

The sidewalk on the new Jackson Avenue West Ramp is open, and the driving lanes on the West Ramp are expected to open any time now. 

The ramp on the east side of Gay Street is expected to be open by mid-January.

Mayor Kincannon discusses the ramp replacement project with members of the construction team.

On Wednesday, Dec. 30, Mayor Indya Kincannon and Downtown Coordinator Rick Emmett did a walking tour and checked out many of the redevelopment projects underway throughout downtown Knoxville. They concluded by checking out the 100 block of Gay Street and the new Jackson Avenue Ramps.

Mayor Kincannon walked down the West Ramp and picked up a takeout dinner for her family from Sweet P's Barbecue and Downtown Dive, 410 W. Jackson Ave.

Sweet P's co-owners Jonathan Ford, with son Miles, and Chris Ford talk with Mayor Kincannon, who was placing a takeout order.

Sweet P's co-owners Jonathan Ford, with son Miles, and Chris Ford talk with Mayor Kincannon, who was placing a takeout order.

Getting the West Ramp open to pedestrians and motorists was especially important, Emmett said, because it creates easy access to and from the elevated Gay Street and Jackson Avenue below. It also more conveniently connects employees and patrons of businesses in the area with the large City-owned parking lot on West Jackson Avenue.

"Replacing the Jackson Avenue Ramps was necessary, because they were 100 years old and structurally deficient," Emmett said. "The end of the project is close at hand, but we know asking people to navigate around the closures for 16 months has been inconvenient. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this much-needed safety upgrade.

"This was really a once-in-a-century opportunity to strengthen the foundations of the nearby historic buildings, upgrade utilities and bring the ramps up to modern safety standards. The new ramps should last another 100 years, just like the originals.”

The historic ramps were built in 1919-20 as a component of the original Gay Street Viaduct that spanned the Southern Railway rail yard. The only major repair work on the ramps since their construction was done in 2008-09, when the east ramp was closed after a routine inspection revealed an issue with a support beam.

Over the past decade, the City has invested more than $19 million in or near the Old City.

The biggest single investment was the Jackson Avenue Ramps ($8.7 million), but other major upgrades included the 100 block of Gay Street ($4.5 million), Jackson Avenue East and West streetscape projects ($2.5 million), the purchase of the McClung Warehouses site ($1.45 million), the purchase of the Old City Jackson Avenue parking lot ($1.3 million), and an EPA-funded remediation (with a City match) of contaminants at the former McClung warehouses site.

Many property owners are investing in the Old City, Mayor Kincannon said. Hundreds of residents are moving into apartments and condominiums in the Old City, or will be moving in, as new units are under construction. The new and safe infrastructure invites people to come explore the neighborhood's unique businesses and restaurants.

Throughout all these projects, the City and its contractors have demonstrated a commitment to historic preservation.

For example, the design and aesthetics of the new Jackson Avenue Ramps replicate the look and vibe of the 100-year-old historic ramps, while correcting structural deficiencies and infusing modern engineering.

The trademark original red brick pavers were repurposed on the upper ends of the ramps, and the construction team painstakingly matched the colors and textures of the new brick and concrete railings and sidewalk to mimic the appearance and feel of the original ramps.

100-year-old pavers were preserved and reused in the new ramps.

On Jackson Avenue itself, two streetscape projects removed the snarl of overhead utility lines and widened the broken, narrow sidewalks in Old City. In spots, the construction contractor used exposed aggregate for concrete curb to replicate the look of the original stone curbs, which in places was broken up beyond repair.

"One thing we heard often from people was a desire to preserve the original pavers, and that was obviously the right thing to do from a historical preservation perspective, so that's something we prioritized," Emmett said. "I think when the ramps are fully reopened, visitors will see the care that was taken to honor and respect the unique character of the Old City."

West Ramp with 100-year-old pavers

Concrete is being poured on the East Ramp, scheduled to open by mid-January

The Emporium Building sits at Gay and Jackson, next to the East Ramp.

Posted by evreeland On 31 December, 2020 at 12:35 PM