By Mike Blackerby
Knoxville, TN (February 23, 2009)- Amid an infusion of concrete, steel, and asphalt, a swath of the expansive SmartFIX40 project that adjoins some of Knoxville’s most historic areas and neighborhoods is getting a decidedly green makeover. Mass plantings and landscaping continue along several historic Knoxville areas until SmartFIX’s projected conclusion early this summer.
SmartFIX is a 14-month, $190 million road project that entails the closure and reconstruction of a 0.9-mile section of Interstate 40 through downtown Knoxville. “This area borders Fourth and Gill, Old North Knoxville, the Old City and Magnolia,” said Travis Brickey, regional spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
“We added a lot of aesthetics to this project. This is really sort of the keystone that ties all of these neighborhoods and districts together. We have worked really closely with these neighborhoods to make the road improvements as green as possible.
“This is designed to be an urban forest. We’re not going to see the fruition of the project until the plantings grow and thrive.” Taylor Nursery of Manchester, Tenn., is contracted to supply the trees and shrubs for the landscaping project. Five Star Seed of Knoxville supplies the seed.
Brickey said 75 percent to 80 percent of the landscaping project should be complete by March. While SmartFIX has a June 30 completion deadline, Brickey said the landscaping portion of the project could extend past that date because of the planting season calendar.
The landscaping includes more than 27,000 plantings of deciduous shade trees, small and flowering trees, evergreen trees, saplings, shrubs, ground cover and wildflowers.
Jim Ullrich is a member of the Neighborhood Freeway Committee that worked closely with TDOT on the landscaping plan that was implemented in conjunction with SmartFIX for some of the city’s historic neighborhoods. “I think we saw an effort to work together even though at times we agree to disagree,” Ullrich said. “They’ve done what we’ve expected them to do to have better landscaping, and I think it shows. This is an example of what can be done and what should be done.”
Brickey said the city of Knoxville and TDOT will maintain the landscaping. “We think this will be something everybody will be proud of,” he said. “This can be a signature piece of this project.”
Knoxville News Sentinel- Tennessee DOT Landscapes an Urban Forest