I-40 interchange design causes concern about W. Dumplin Valley Road

May. 18, 2013 @ 05:26 PM

Some local residents told Tennessee Department of Transportation officials Thursday that they believe the redesign of the Exit 407 interchange will create a “deathtrap” at West Dumplin Valley Road.

There were few complaints about how the redesign would affect traffic accessing Highway 66 and Interstate 40 during TDOT’s public hearing on the proposal, but several people came to speak out about the possible issues for people using West Dumplin Valley. The road —where the flea market is — runs along the south side of Interstate 40 before emptying out on Highway 66.

It’s already difficult for drivers to get into the northbound lanes of the highway toward the baseball park, with drivers typically turning south and quickly trying to cross three lanes of traffic to make a U-turn into the northbound lanes.

The redesign calls for the northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 66 to switch to opposite sides of the highway just before they reach the bridges over the interstate. TDOT officials say the new design — originally called a diverging diamond, now called a double crossover diamond — will improve traffic flow because drivers won’t have to turn left across oncoming traffic. It also calls for improvements to the interstate, including a long turn-off lane for people getting off at the exit.

But the people concerned about West Dumplin Valley Road think the redesign overlooks the difficulty they face when the road empties out not far from the interchange.

“I see a great flaw in what you’re doing,” said Myra Hensley. “I see a deathtrap at West Dumplin Valley.”

She wasn’t the only one to use that term. Some others asked what the redesign would do for people trying to turn onto the road from the northbound lanes of the highway.

Jonathan Haycraft of design firm Gresham Smith and Partners, said local and state officials are aware the design would cause additional issues for drivers using West Dumplin Valley.

“We definitely hear you,” he said. “We’ve looked at it this morning and we’ve looked at for months, and we’ll keep looking at it.” However, he acknowledged there was no easy solution.

Some of the other questions included whether the design would confuse motorists, especially tourists who might come here once or twice a year. Haycraft acknowledged it looked confusing viewing it on a map, but drivers wouldn’t be confused because they would still be following the road and wouldn’t have an option to turn and get lost.

Jim Blalock asked whether they had considered making an access lane running from Interstate 40 longer than the planned 2,500 feet. “You should consider extending that,” he said. “It would be cheap to build.”

Thursday’s hearing was the only one planned on the proposal, but it was not the last opportunity for people to let TDOT know what they think about the proposal.

They have until June 6 to email comments to TDOTcomments@tn.gov or mail them to Project Comments, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Suite 700, James K. Polk Building, 505 Deadrick St., Nashville, TN 37243-0332.

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. The estimated work time is between 12 and 18 months.

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com