Far be it for me to suggest a viable solution, but maybe this will give some direction to the problem you so well expressed in Secret History ["Fix Henley Street" by Jack Neely, Jan. 6, 2011].
We need to look at a similar solution that is working right here in downtown. I'm referring to the State Street Garage/Rivera escalators combination that is working well to get people where there are neat things to do.
Don Parnell's frequent claim that we had no parking problem in downtown may have been true when comparing us with much larger cities. But it's not true to those coddled by the developers of West Knoxville who set it up where no one was ever more than a block from a door to either the big mall climate-controlled hallways or the business they wanted to visit in a strip mall without paying a single cent other than driving in circles until that really closer parking spot became available.
So when the city finally built the State Street, Locust Street, and Market Street garages, progress was made! Now with free parking after hours and on weekends, businesses that are open longer than regular office hours are thriving in downtown. Even the Old City has many new spaces under the James White Parkway and the Hall of Fame Drive overpasses.
So why not do a decent job of getting the Locust Street parking lot users to the World's Fair side of Henley Street, for starters? The current idea is very flimsy—many narrow steps or a claustrophobic elevator on the west side, a narrow pedestrian overpass over cars going nearly 50 mph, and some steps on even the YMCA side. My 70-plus-year-old knees aren't as resilient as they used to be!
So now you know how it is. Let's see how easy it might be to fix.
First we need to see how many people will make the businesses on either side thriving. Then divide that number by two or three. Now, we need that many parking spaces. Maybe the parking lot next to the state court could be decked.
Next, we need wide-open public conveyances that require no knee action to get us to the other side of Henley Street. So the escalators need to be twice as big in carrying capacity as those on the east side. There's lots of space where the current steps are.
The personnel bridge needs to be three times as wide so those scared of heights can hug the center line and they won't have to see the traffic below. Yes, it must be covered for our rainy days which aren't infrequent. To widen the people bridge we will probably have to close the sidewalk under it, but who uses it now? There's a sidewalk on the other side of Clinch Avenue.
So here's my suggestion. Comments please, everyone!