Apr 30 2008
12:45 pm

In case you've been on vacation to Mars and hadn't heard, a traffic disaster of Biblical proportions is set to begin today when TDOT and local officials close I-40 through Downtown Knoxville.

Why our traffic geniuses decided to have two of the most heavily traveled Interstate Highways in the U.S. intersect on an elevated platform in the middle of Downtown Knoxville is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there.

And neither here nor there is where you will soon be going because the same traffic geniuses have decided that instead of blowing it up with dynamite and rerouting the traffic around town, they are going to close it for a year and rebuild it as part of the most expensive highway project in state history.

From the TDOT website, Dolly explains:

Here's some stuff from TDOT's website that might help you navigate the mess:

I-40 Closure details map.
I-40 interchange with Hall of Fame Drive map
Hall of Fame/Neyland Drive map
Knox Co. Detours map
Driving directions for selected destinations
Current traffic conditions
City of Knoxville TDOT Traffic Cams

Local media has some helpful resources as well:

KNS SmartFIX40 page
KNS Navigating SmartFIX40 blog
WATE Street Wise
WATE TDOT Traffic Cams
WBIR TDOT Traffic Tracker
WVLT TDOT Traffic Cams
KNS TDOT Traffic Cams
WBIR Traffic Twitter

Good luck, and be careful out there!

jah's picture

Actually, the lane closure

Actually, the lane closure is tonight ... early Thursday.

Rachel's picture

(*The TDOT site says 12:01

(*The TDOT site says 12:01 AM May 1st, the KNS says midnight tonight?)

So? That's a one minute difference.

R. Neal's picture

Oh, Duh. Didn't know what

Oh, Duh. Didn't know what day it was.

RayCapps's picture

Ooh! Ooh! Let me!

Why our traffic geniuses decided to have two of the most heavily traveled Interstate Highways in the U.S. intersect on an elevated platform in the middle of Downtown Knoxville is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there.

The original batch of interstate highways very roughly paralleled existing US Routes. Going through Knoxville, we had US11 (Lee Highway), US25E (Dixie Highway), and US70(No nickname that I know of). Dixie-Lee Junction anyone? I-40 roughly paralleled US70. I-75 roughly paralleled US25, and I-81 paralleled US11 until it merges into I-40 between Newport and Dandridge.

I'm sure Jack Neely could add a lot of the local color as to how much influence our city fathers at the time had over the decision to have I-75 and I-40 merge in the heart of downtown. But we were ordained from the start to have both of those major interstates pass through or very close around the city.

Bill Lyons's picture

TDOT has phased this in well

As far as I can tell, out of town and/or truck drivers have been operating as if the closure scheduled for tonight has already happened. Signs have sent them on the new routes for a number of days. And it appears that local folks have realized that they need to get in the left two lanes if the are headed into downtown from the west. I drove all the way to JWP from the west the last couple of mornings and saw very few cars using I40 between JWP and Hall of Fame.

I think TDOT has done an excellent job with this, from getting the full complement of 3 lanes in each direction built on 640 to a ton of signage to a very agressive and effective publicity campaign and a cool poster to boot.

The hardest problem, as everyone knows, will be with a major accident or incident on the present I640. The Fire and Police departments have worked with TDOT on preparing response plans. I think this has been handled about as well as it could have been.

Random thought of the day. Have our avatars become our fate?

edens's picture

Well, I do need a haircut.

Well, I do need a haircut.

R. Neal's picture

Hey, Bill: Somebody had a

Hey, Bill: Somebody had a map recently of "incident management areas" or something with alternate routes if there's a wreck that closes I-640 or I-275 etc. I can't seem to find it anywhere. I saw a PDF version of one on some website, but it didn't really have much detail and it wasn't readable. Do y'all have something like that, or have you seen it?

Bill Lyons's picture

Incident management areas

Randy, Factchecker posted the link I was aware of in re:incidents, etc. I will check to see if there is another.

mjw's picture


Actually, I saw it on WBIR on their SmartFix40 page...

Rummage, rummage...

Aha, try here (warning: PDF). You have to decipher the color coded legend to figure out what the actual alternative routes are (each zone has a similarly colored alternate route listed under it in the legend).

Tess's picture

Two words: Cas Walker

I think routing the interstate through the city was the genius ideas of the city leaders of the time. Wasn't it during Cas Walker's tenure as mayor?

The purpose then, as it is today, was to bring traffic downtown.

smalc's picture

and US70(No nickname that I

and US70(No nickname that I know of)

Some maps call it "Broadway of America."

edens's picture

Actually, as originally

Actually, as originally devised, the interstate highway system was supposed to skirt most urban areas. The political log-rolling required to ensure congressional passage of the funding changed that as most cities leaped at the chance to channel federal funds into supposedly fixing their internal traffic problems. I believe Bruce Wheeler's book touches on some of that on the local level - one of the few things Cas and the Silk Stocking crowd ever agreed on.

The part of I-40 that blows by Regas actually predates the interstate highway system.

Rachel's picture

Beat me to it, edens. IMO,

Beat me to it, edens.

IMO, I75 should have originally gone approximately where the Orange Route is now supposed to go. Ironic or what?

bizgrrl's picture


In agreement, as well.

bizgrrl's picture

Somone I know has to drive

Somone I know has to drive in from Jefferson City to Papermill Road area every morning. She will be going 640 from now on. She commented that a lot of locals were still using I-40 and thinks 640 will show increased traffic when I-40 is closed.

Rachel's picture

I rarely get on the

I rarely get on the interstate in town (IMO, they're for commuting BETWEEN cities, not WITHIN a smallish one). But I do occasionally get on I40 eastbound at JWP and get off at Asheville Highway when I'm going to Jeff to see my folks.

Usually, I either take Magnolia or the back way up Riverside Drive and Delrose through Holston Hills instead, so I don't particularly mind that access to Asheville Highway from I40 eastbound is closed.

But... on one of the tee vee stations (can't remember which one), I heard them advising people to take the Rutledge Pike exit instead. That won't cut it. If you get off 40 on Rutledge Pike and cut over to Magnolia, you'll be dumped on Magnolia going west. There is no direct access from Rutledge Pike to Magnolia/Asheville Highway eastbound.

Those of us who've spent time in that neck of the woods know how to turn left at Shoney's and take a couple of back streets to Magnolia/Asheville Highway. Not something most folks would know.

Anyway, it bothered me that the tee vee folks were giving out bad advice. If you happen to be headed east to Asheville Highway from downtown, take heed.

Factchecker's picture

Bless her heart

You don't meant this, do you?

BTW, what are we supposed to do if we spot Dolly rerouting traffic in a wild get-up?

Pam Strickland's picture

Wave real big, and take a

Wave real big, and take a picture.

Pam Strickland

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." ~Kurt Vonnegut

R. Neal's picture

The thing I was talking

Here is one version of the thing I was talking about:


This is a better version of the first one I saw. I thought there was an even better map or series of maps with better description of alternate routes that was in in the paper or somewhere....

scottfrith's picture

Mayor Haslam provides the

Mayor Haslam provides the quote of the year:

"As Mike Tyson tells people, everybody has a strategy until they get hit, and we're about to get hit," he said.

Hilarious but true!

WhitesCreek's picture

Got a Kid coming home from

Got a Kid coming home from ETSU tomorrow. I told him the best way was to come through Georgia.

We're screwed.

Stan G's picture

Have him take the direct

Have him take the direct route: Watauga to Holston to Tennessee to Emory.

Stan G's picture

Why our traffic geniuses

Why our traffic geniuses decided to have two of the most heavily traveled Interstate Highways in the U.S. intersect on an elevated platform in the middle of Downtown Knoxville is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there.

The original Malfunction Junction was in fact at ground level, well at least the northern leg of I-75. It incorporated a very tight, single-lane cloverleaf interchange with as I recall a 25 mph speed limit. As I recall it was next to impossible for a tractor-trailer to take the curves at that speed.

The part of I-40 that blows by Regas actually predates the interstate highway system.

Actually, the original expressway ended at west side of North Gay Street. I doubt any of the original expressway still exists. But, yes, the city fathers apparently saw an opportunity for the federal government to fund a portion of the planned expressway around downtown.

Keep in mind that prior to the Interstate system, federal highways passed directly through the center of all American cities. I doubt that many cities including Knoxville wanted to see that traffic bypass downtown businesses. Lexington, KY being one of the exceptions.

IMO, I75 should have originally gone approximately where the Orange Route is now supposed to go. Ironic or what?

When the interstates were built most everything west of I-640 was country. The original interstate incorporated interchanges for the future construction of I-640; it wasn’t an afterthought so we should give them credit for planning a bypass.

mjw's picture

Yes, it does

I doubt any of the original expressway still exists.

Actually, the two lane raised portion of the highway from Gay Steet to around the old Magnolia exit is part of the old "Magnolia" expressway. In my memory they have redone the roadbed (stripped it almost to the girders) once (my memories for that sort of thing go back to the mid-seventies or so). But all the guardrails and supports are the same, I believe, except where they've been altered for the new I-275 interchange and to tie into the Business Loop. Jack Neely wrote a piece for Metropulse a few years ago about it (it was part of a larger piece on things in Knoxville that need to be torn down).

BPittman's picture


Some might be surprised to hear that I agree with Bill Lyons...TDOT's implementation of this project has been very good in my opinion.

However, given that no one wanted the darn thing coming through downtown nor can anyone provide a logical reason for its path, TDOT's successful implementation is the proverbial lipstick on a pig.

redmondkr's picture

I flew over The Junction in

I flew over The Junction in the mid seventies and captured this.

Negotiating it from this angle was rather pleasant. I believe that pedestrian bridge now resides in Karns

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edens's picture

>I flew over The Junction in

>I flew over The Junction in the mid seventies and captured this.

Wow, it's tough to even orient that view with a current google earth overhead shot. That AG Heinz at the center bottom? Other than it and the square dance building (above and a little to the left of Heinz) most everything else in the picture south of I-40 and west of the RR tracks is gone.

I remember riding my bike around the big factory building in the lower right corner, though. Torn down circa 1990?

Edit, actually most everything in the square defined by 5th Ave, the interstates and the RR is gone, too. Wonder what that big, white T-shaped building was?

Stick Thrower's picture

Took me a while to find Broadway

Here's the current google view (cemetery helps for orientation to redmondkr's 70s view).

djuggler's picture

That's a great picture!

That's a great picture! Google Earth has ruined me as I kept trying to grab the picture and move it to look beyond the edges and the zoom isn't working!

What are the two black/purple parallel structures in the lower right hand corner?

Thanks for mentioning the pedestrian crossing. I would have never guessed!

Doug McCaughan

Brian A.'s picture

Chaos is almost here!

Is anyone live blogging from the roads tonight?

Brian A.
I'd rather be cycling.

redmondkr's picture

I seem to remember the black

I seem to remember the black area in the lower right as being a coal dumping ramp on a spur from the Southern Railway. I need to find my original slide and re-shoot it so it will have a resolution high enough to "zoom in" on some of these features.

That building just below the lower right "leaf" of the cloverleaf appears to be a motel when I increase the size of the uploaded image.

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mjw's picture

The Admiral Benbow

The motel was the Admiral Benbow Inn. I can remember looking straight at it every time i came off I-40 East onto I-75 North. There was a very distinctive admiral-shaped logo on the sign.

Stan G's picture

Not to Make an Issue About It, But

Yes, it does
Submitted by mjw on Thu, 2008/05/01 - 12:37am.

Actually, the two lane raised portion of the highway from Gay Steet to around the old Magnolia exit is part of the old "Magnolia" expressway.

The portion you mention was built when I-40 was constructed through downtown. As I mention above, the old expressway ended at North Gay Street. I drove it on a regular basis between Western and Magnolia. With the possible exception of a few sections of concrete, what the construction of I-40 didn't eliminate, the revamp of Malfunction Junction did.


R. Neal's picture

The predicted Road Warrior

The predicted Road Warrior Apocolypse has apparrently failed to materialize. All the traffic cams I looked at this AM showed smooth sailing. Guess the PR effort by the TDOT and the City of Knoxville, with the help of Dolly, worked.

Stan G's picture

Come On, Randy

Who believes TDOT and the City of Knoxville?

Who questions Dolly?

Let's give credit where credit is due.

Stan G's picture

The Other Detour

Everyone is thinking about the I-40 shutdown; however, a section of East Fifth Avenue is also closed. Can one dogleg on Hall of Fame Drive between the two sections of Magnolia? If not, I assume the best detour would be Summit Hill to Hall of Fame Drive.

Any other suggestions?

Up Goose Creek's picture

Farmer's market

I believe the 3 blocky roofs just below the cloverleaf are the old farmer's market. Right at the bottom of the off ramp, very convenient for a UT student. It was a drive thru market, you'd lean down your window and haggle for watermelons or corn and the farmers would load them in your car.

Aaah... good times.

Less is the new More - Karrie Jacobs

redmondkr's picture

Mom and I were on our way to

Mom and I were on our way to that market around midday on Friday, November 22, 1963, with the radio on. We had just crossed the Grace Moore Cloverleaf and started to make the right turn from Western to Dale (It was not a one-way street back then) when we heard the news from Dallas.

We immediately turned around and headed home to turn on the TV.

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