On Saturday, October 11th, I had the opportunity to tour the SmartFix40 construction site in Knoxville, TN. The tour was arranged by Billy Riddle and HB Elkins as part of the Fall 2008 Knoxville Road Meet. For all 53 photos from the tour of the project, I have a flickr set (surprised?). The group was able to tour the entire construction site and it was certainly an unbelievable project to see up close and personal. The SmartFix40 project began May 1st and is scheduled to be completed on June 30, 2009. A little over one mile of I-40 in the heart of Knoxville has been completely shut down, as TDOT rebuilds from the ground up the over 40-year-old freeway.
In the photo above, I am looking Eastbound towards I-40 (far left). I am standing on the onramp to I-40 East from James White Parkway. The ramp on the far right is the onramp to I-40 East from Hall of Fame Drive. The entire I-40/James White Parkway interchange has been redesigned and completely rebuilt to modern safety and interstate standards. The onramp to I-40 East (which I have above) from James White Parkway will actually tunnel under Hall of Fame Drive. (photo below) All of this action occurs at the centerpiece of the project, the Hall of Fame Drive bridge over Interstate 40. This bridge is the landmark piece of the project and has been featured in many posters promoting the SmartFix40 project. The total redesign of the James White Parkway exit is massive. The redesign has eliminated left exits and entrances...expanded accel/decel lanes...all in the same right of way space that the highway originally had. The exit ramp from I-40 West to James White Parkway is a great example. Because TDOT could not purchase additional right-of-way, the exit ramp begins east of Hall of Fame Drive and parallels I-40 West for close to a half-mile if not longer. A massive over 700-foot retaining wall was built as part of the ramp system. This retaining wall (built with technical engineering I won't pretend to understand) is only second in the state. The design of this structure has piqued the interest of numerous DOT's throughout the country that are studying the engineering for similar projects in their respective states. The outdated James White Parkway Interchange is being replaced by a safer high-speed three-level directional interchange. In addition to the interchange improvements, total bridge rebuilds, I-40 is being widened to six lanes. One of the larger bridge projects is rebuilding the I-40 viaduct through the heart of Knoxville's historic 4th and Gill district.
This is an amazing project...something that has been in planning for over 25 years. Being able to see this construction site up close and personal..and to be able to ask the engineers involved questions about it...really made this tour worthwhile. TDOT has been very involved with the local residents during this project, and their field office averages a number of visitors per day. Thank you again to Billy and HB for coordinating this opportunity to take a look at one of the most talked-about projects in the United States. Of course, finally here's the group photo...I'm the fool with the long-sleeved t-shirt on a bright sunny 84-degree day. (Didn't help that I started to catch a sinus cold the night before. :-p)