Interstate 40 Is Now Open In Knoxville

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Interstate 40 Is Now Open In Knoxville

Posted: 06/12/2009
With a push of a button the SmartFIX40 completion countdown clock stopped and I-40 in downtown Knoxville officially reopened to traffic today, 18 days ahead of an already accelerated schedule. During the opening ceremony, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale all applauded the project as an example of team work, dedication and a job well done. At approximately 2:30 p.m. the state and local leaders gathered around a large red button and officially reopened the interstate as a procession of Knoxville residents rounded the hill and became the first to drive the new I-40.

The stretch of I-40 through downtown Knoxville had been closed for 14 months as it was totally transformed to a safer, more modern roadway. 
Since the May 1, 2008 closure, I-40 has been widened to six through lanes, four auxiliary lanes, construction or rehabilitation of 13 bridges, 15 retaining walls and three noise walls. Twelve side roads and seven new ramps were also constructed. 
"It was a radical idea, shutting down a major interstate in the heart of a large urban area. We had to have everyone from the local leadership all the way to the Governor onboard with the idea," explained Nicely. "Using the SmartFIX concept saved motorists two to three years of construction tie-ups and long delays and we'll certainly look at this project as an example for urban interstate construction in the future." 
Originally built in the 1960's, I-40 passed through a heavily developed urban area comprised of historic neighborhoods and commercial properties near downtown. As Knoxville grew, the highway was unable to keep up and meet the modern day traffic demands. With crash rates increasing it was clear an upgrade to the interstate was badly needed. 

After extensive public outreach and community input construction began in July 2005 on the large urban interchange project, known as SmartFIX40, which included the construction of Hall of Fame Drive, a new city boulevard linking north Knoxville with downtown, widening I-40 to three lanes in each direction, reconfiguring the I-40 interchange with James White Parkway and a completely new I-40 interchange at Hall of Fame Drive and Broadway.

"TDOT and the contactors have done an excellent job reopening the interstate to traffic as quickly as possible," said Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. "The new improvements to I-40 in Knoxville will not only help traffic flow in and out of the downtown area, but will also serve as a fitting gateway into downtown." 
Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale added, "All of the planning and preparation for the closure really paid off. There were very few problems during the last 13 months and Knox County residents deserve some of the credit for that. Everyone in Knox County should be proud of this new state-of-the-art roadway." 
TDOT Region One Director, Fred Corum, who will be retiring June 30 after 53 years with TDOT, has been involved in every major interstate project in east Tennessee and said "SmartFIX40 has been the most ambitious and most rewarding project I have had the privilege to be a part of. I'm very proud of all the TDOT employees who helped make SmartFIX40 a success." 
Broken into two separate contracts, SmartFIX40 was an accelerated construction process that involved closing a primary roadway to allow around-the-clock work uninterrupted by traffic. The process dramatically shortened the time required to complete the project and enhanced safety and reduced long-term inconvenience to motorists. An estimated 101,000 vehicles a day typically used the section of I-40 before the closure.