By Ben Lawson
Since the Henley Street Bridge closed in January, much has been said about the new traffic situation both north and southbound on Chapman Highway. Now several businesses have to shoulder the burden of the new commuter situation.
Emery’s 5&10, a South Knoxville staple, is located just south of the Moody Avenue and Chapman Hwy. intersection. The changes to that section of the highway include routing both northbound lanes onto Moody for access to James White Parkway, and transforming what used to be the left turn lane into the sole northbound lane.
As a result, traffic can quickly bog down travel in the area, leading to people avoiding that intersection entirely, and thus missing Emery’s. Owner Ron Emery doesn’t care for the new situation and says the Knoxville Police Department agrees.
“We’re disappointed in how they designed this intersection,” he said.
Beyond the intersection, other businesses have been virtually cut off. Allan Miller, president of the Disc Exchange, said they have also been affected, already reporting a 14 percent decline from last quarter. While he is grateful the number isn’t higher, he also has no way of knowing if it will drop farther.
While he said the city has done some things right initially, he now feels that the concerns of business owners are being ignored.
He was surprised by the loss of business south of the bridge, but indicated that the Moody intersection is likely the cause. When he questioned why another northbound lane could not be opened, The Tennessee Department of Transportation promised to send him their findings on why that wasn’t possible. He’s still waiting for that report.
“Anything they can do to help the situation over here would be appreciated, no matter how modest,” Miller said.
Rather than waiting to see how much more they’ll be affected, Miller and Emery are being proactive. Emery’s has just launched a brand new Web site that they hope will pick up some of the slack. And The Disc Exchange can still count on its loyal customer base, even though many have made the shift to weekend only trips to avoid traffic.
In addition, Miller will continue to put pressure on the city to hear out their problems. After frequent email conversations with John Hunter, traffic division chief, and Brent Johnson, director of engineering, went nowhere, Miller is preparing a petition to the city council that he hopes will demonstrate the seriousness of their situation.
Miller said he has also considered relocating.
“We have some places we could go, but not with business being down just that much.”
For others, the bridge closing made moving a priority. Sean Dietz, with the used bookstore formerly known as The Book Eddy and now called Central Street Books, said there were several reasons why they relocated a few months ago to downtown. But the Henley Bridge clenched that decision.
“It was the nail in the coffin,” he said.
Businesses Frustrated by Bridge Closure
By Ben Lawson