With a push of a button, the SmartFIX40 completion countdown clock stopped, and Interstate 40 in downtown Knoxville officially reopened to traffic Friday, June 12, 18 days ahead of an already accelerated schedule. During the opening ceremony, Congressman John Duncan, 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 teamwork, dedication and a job well done.
“After decades of frustrated attempts to widen I-40 through downtown Knoxville, TDOT and its partners found a solution in 2005 and today completed their mission,” Bredesen says. “SmartFIX40 now serves as a national model for urban interstate reconstruction. This project proved that major interstate construction work can be successfully completed in an urban area with quality workmanship, teamwork, community outreach and excellent communication.”
The stretch of I-40 through downtown Knoxville had been closed for 14 months as it was transformed to a wider, more modern roadway. “SmartFIX40 shows that with hard work, innovative ideas and cooperation among federal, state and local leaders, major reconstruction projects like this can be done with minimal impacts on the local community and travelers,” Duncan says.
Since the May 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 also were constructed.
“It was a radical idea, shutting down a major interstate in the heart of a large urban area,” Nicely says. “We had to have everyone from the local leadership all the way to the governor onboard with the idea. Using the SmartFIX concept saved motorists two to three years of construction tieups 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 1960s, 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.