I-40 congestion: Life after the Orange Route

Nick Della VolpeOpinion

Tired of stop and go traffic on I-40 between downtown and West Town exits? Or getting bogged down traveling south on I-75 from Emory Road to the I-640 split?

Once upon a time an Orange Route (I-495) was planned to divert some 30,000 cars per day heading south on I-75, westward, rather than having then go through the center of Knoxville. Faced with ballooning costs approaching $1 billion and public opposition, the 25-mile bypass was cancelled in June 2010. Sunk costs at that point totaled some $7.5 million.

Since then, the lane-bulging traffic has continued to grow. By now, the original Orange Route has been clogged with continued growth, making it less practical and more costly.

What next? TDOT’s boss for Region I, Steve Borden, said future solutions could include the possibility of public-private funding and construction of interstate lanes. Such lanes would likely be built elevated, above existing traffic lanes. And would of necessity charge a toll to repay private road investment.

That public-private approach is already being used in cities like Houston, Texas.

In the meantime, play relaxing music to help ease daily parking-lot commuter pain.

Nick Della Volpe is a lawyer, a gardener and a former member of Knoxville City Council.


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