Bridge in downtown Knoxville closed; 'compromised element' found

Updated Jun 26, 2024
Gay Street Bridge in Knoxville, Tennessee
Gay Street Bridge being inspected
Tennessee DOT

A routine Tennessee Department of Transportation inspection of the Gay Street Bridge in Knoxville Tuesday, June 25, revealed a compromised element, which the DOT said out of an abundance of caution has led to a complete closure of the bridge to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

TDOT said a more detailed inspection of the bridge, which is owned and operated by the City of Knoxville will be continuing. More data from the continuing inspection will determine what repairs will be required and how long the bridge will remain closed.

“We regret the inconvenience, but public safety is the absolute top priority for both TDOT and the City,” Engineering Director Tom Clabo said. “Once the inspection is finalized, the City will proceed quickly with repairs. Knoxvillians can be assured that the bridge will continue to be safe once the deficiencies are corrected.”

Traffic traveling from south side of the river to the north side is being diverted to the Henley Street Bridge, and James White Parkway also is an option to get downtown.

Gay Street carries traffic to and from the heart of the city's downtown. 

Built in 1898, the 1,512-foot-long bridge is the oldest spanning the Tennessee River in Knoxville. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

After receiving poor safety ratings, the bridge was extensively repaired in a project that required its closure from December 2001 to April 2004. Repairs included replacement of rusted pin joints and bearings and replacement of concrete on the bridge deck.

In 2004, the City, state and federal governments partnered on a $15.7 million Gay Street Bridge improvement project. From then until now, the bridge had passed each inspection, and no closures had been required due to safety maintenance.