Slowing down traffic on I-24, SMART or dumb?

Traffic Headlines

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Community growth inevitably brings more congestion on our roads. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident in Middle Tennessee than Interstate-24.

More specifically, I-24 between Rutherford County and Nashville. Just ask commuters like George Wilburn and Richard Walton, who use the stretch of road daily.

“Man, you need a helicopter most days,” says Wilburn. “There’s always wrecks, especially when it rains. It’s terrible.”

Walton adds, “The ideal time to drive on 24 is probably 2 o’clock in the morning. That’s the only safe time to be on 24.”

But, things are actually changing in the dark of the night. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is in phase two of three of working to slow down traffic.

The project is called 24 Smart. But, how exactly does “slowing down” traffic help, seems dumb?

Brad Freeze runs TDOT’s traffic operations division. He says, “What we are doing on this corridor represents a shift in our operational posture – moving from a more reactive style of having to manage traffic to more of a proactive style. So thinking of terms of really getting out there and trying to slow down the breakdown.”

With car volume up 60 plus percent since 2005, the slow down is actually working according to Freeze. “Since 2017, and before COVID, looking at the data, we saw a 5 minute improvement in travel time – peak A.M. travel times on the corridor. That may not seem like much, but it’s making a difference.”

I-24 alternates now have signal controllers, which means, when things go bad on the interstate, lights go green on Murfreesboro Road automatically.

This overnight construction is the installation of sensors that talk to cars 30 times a second, but they aren’t talking behind your back.

Freeze is quick to point out that this is not personal. “The information we collect from the corridor is completely anonymous. There’s no way for us to track it back to an individual person on the data.”

That data can actually detect things like near misses, traffic shockwaves, and other issues allowing TDOT to react.

In phase three you’ll really see this in action.

“That’s where you’ll see some of the lane management signs where we are actually taking more of an active in managing traffic, Taking and disseminating more information on the corridor, and showing lane by lane information.” These signs Freeze added will be in place by next summer.

24 Smart is the realization that you can’t build your way out of gridlock but using technology you can keep those wheels rolling.

Freeze says this is the bottom line, “We’re very focused on making sure people can plan and expect a lot of these strategies we are deploying are really focused on improving that reliability.”

You can read TDOT’s full explanation of the upgrade by clicking on this link.

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