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Tickle College of Engineering seniors (l-r) Nick Cheney, Will Huettner, Josue Garduno, and Jimmy Albert.

Four University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Engineering Vols are working to shape the new design of one of East Tennessee’s busiest thoroughfares.

Alcoa Highway, which connects Blount and Knox Counties, has been undergoing a lengthy and complicated redesign. One section of the busy artery—from Hall Road to Pellissippi Parkway—will be rerouted to the east and will serve as a higher speed route for people traveling to Knoxville.

Getting a chance to contribute to this effort for their senior design capstone was a highlight for Jimmy Albert of Dandridge, Tennessee, Nick Cheney of Memphis, Josue Garduno of Smyrna, Tennessee, and Will Huettner of Herndon, Virginia—all students in UT’s Tickle College of Engineering.

The City of Alcoa had requested alternative layout concepts prioritizing multimodal infrastructure at a reasonable cost, and the team’s proposal was named best overall project at the fall 2021 Senior Design Showcase.Alcoa-project

The students developed an upgrade design for the section of existing roadway that runs most of the length of the airport, working to design solutions that meet the city’s strategic goals. Their design included pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure such as crosswalks, pedestrian crossing signals, widened sidewalks, and redesign of some driveways and access roads to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Their sidewalk plan has potential to serve as the link between Knox and Blount County greenways, which is a major initiative of City of Alcoa.

Recommendations were made for drainage, intersection design, traffic control, and erosion control measures. For signal optimization, the team used Synchro microsimulation software and made recommendations to improve crossing time for all modes of traffic.

“Senior design provided a great opportunity to learn and grow in preparation for professional practice as an engineer,” said Albert. “Through the support and guidance provided by Dr. J [Distinguished Lecturer Jenny Retherford], mentors, clients, and faculty, our team was able to develop a plan to improve the accessibility and safety of vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic along a section of Alcoa Highway.”

Garduno said he was very satisfied with the senior design course because it provides students with a glimpse of the engineering world.


Alcoa Highway

“This senior design team took advantage of a wonderful opportunity,” said Retherford. “The seniors engaged with City of Alcoa and Gresham Smith engineers with professionalism and care. Their design solutions were well communicated, which led to an extremely valuable learning experience. Witnessing their unique individual growth was a joy! They will all be impactful junior engineers and I look forward to seeing their impact on the profession.”

The team thinks the City of Alcoa and the businesses there will appreciate a redesign of the existing roadway to accommodate local needs. The current road does not accommodate multimodal access and carries high volumes of daily traffic. The team recognized the opportunity to revitalize the existing roadway to better serve the local public through these enhancements. Their project generated alternative layout concepts and brought a preferred option capable of improving local traffic access to businesses to final design.


Elan Lloyd (, 865-974-8786)

Brooks Clark (, 865-974-5471)