Hearing set on I-40 interchange redesign

May. 16, 2013 @ 01:01 AM

A public hearing today will help shine a light on the diverging diamond plan, which is meant to improve traffic flow at the county’s sole interstate interchange.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is hosting the hearing, which is set to last from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday and will be held in the Smokies Park Cafeteria.

If the new design is approved, it would eventually mean that the northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 66 would move to the opposite sides of the highway where traffic reaches the two bridges crossing Interstate 40. That would avoid the issue of drivers turning left across the highway to get onto the interstate, and TDOT officials believe it could relieve the traffic backups that occur every year on dates when the tourist traffic reaches its peak.

“For an example, a vehicle heading from Sevierville to Knoxville would normally have to stop at the southern intersection, and then stop again to turn left at the northern intersection. With the (proposed design) this same vehicle will only have to stop one time - at the southern intersection- and then will have free flowing access to the ramps they want to turn onto,” TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said. “This will significantly increase the amount of traffic that can travel through the interchange, when compared to traditional interchange configurations.”

The hearing will give residents a chance to look at the designs for the proposed project, and to talk to TDOT officials including representatives of the design and environmental divisions.

A court recorder will complete a transcript of the hearing, including questions or comments from the audience.

“Public input is an important part of our projects,” Nagi said. “That includes ones like this one which would have federal funding.”

They can enter written statements as well. People who don’t make it to the hearing, or wish to enter written comments after it ends, have 21 days to do so by sending them to Project Comments, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Suite 700, James K. Polk Building, 505 Deadrick St., Nashville, TN 37243-0332 or by emailing them to TDOTcomments@tn.gov.

If approved, the project could be let for bids in the final quarter of this year, meaning construction could start as early as next year.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com