Drivers brace for first 440 commute since construction project began

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Drivers who use Interstate 440 are anticipating traffic delays Monday along with the near-nonstop heavy construction on the roadway. 

Crews began work on the nearly $153 million Tennessee Department of Transportation project Friday night.

The reconstruction will upgrade the busy interstate from concrete to asphalt and add a lane for traffic in each direction, shortening the merge lanes and closing roadway shoulders.

Traffic is down to two lanes in each direction during the day and one lane at night as crews work 24 hours a day, six days a week.  

MORE: TDOT wants drivers to be aware of changes coming to 440

“The very first thing they’re going to see is barrels and striping to shift traffic to the outside shoulder,” said Clayton Markham, TDOT’s 440 project manager. 

Markham says the traffic shifts, starting between West End and Belmont, and making its way east to I-24, will begin on Friday. 

One of the first phases of the project will be to remove the grass median

“The grass median will be excavated out and the existing guard rail there in the median will be taken out,” said Markham. 

“When the big work starts to remove the concrete median, all the drivers are definitely going to feel it,” TDOT spokeswoman Kathryn Schulte said.  

“What we wanted to do was get in and do all the work that was needed looking way down the road, so we’re not going to have to come back in here after a really rough project on drivers and do another one a few years later,” Schulte explained. “We wanted to knock everything out.” 

After some drainage work in the median, the heavy lifting of removing concrete and rubbilization to make way for new asphalt begins. That process — which will be loud — will begin as soon as late Aprill.

One major change will be along West End Avenue, near Elmington Avenue. Beginning Friday, the eastbound on-ramp to 440 will be closed.

“You’ll have to go past that initial ramp, there will be a new ramp for you to take up there.” 

Another change is the speed limit, down to 45 miles per hour. Also, there will be limited to no shoulder lanes along active work sections of the interstate. Markham says to expect delays. 

“See where congestion is at the time, plan your trips so that you can mitigate any delays,” said Markham. 

“What we wanted to do was get in and do all the work that was needed looking way down the road, so we’re not going to have to come back in here after a really rough project on drivers and do another one a few years later,” Schulte explained. “We wanted to knock everything out.” 

The funding finally came after the IMPROVE Act was passed by the Tennessee legislature in 2017 to help fund the state’s $10 billion backlog in road and bridge projects. 

TDOT said once this project is done, I-440 shouldn’t need any major work, other than routine repaving, for possibly decades to come. 

“Drivers can look forward to smooth pavement and a little bit more capacity,” Schulte said. “It’s going to be a great roadway, but we’ve got some construction ahead of us before we get there.” 
 The I-440 project also includes improved noise walls, lighting and electronic message boards. 

The project is expected to be finished by August 2020. 

To see TDOT’s timeline for each stage of the project and scheduled lane closures, click here.  

Click here for News 2’s complete coverage of the I-440 Fix. 

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