Anyone leaving Farragut via I-40/I-75 during afternoon rush hour knows they will wait through a few – often, several – light cycles before they reach the interstate. Some days of the week (Fridays) and times of year (December), the backup on Campbell Station Road reaches Farragut Primary School. The snarled interchange also causes backups for those exiting the interstate.
It’s good news that the state has budgeted improvements to the entire 373 interchange, but since that project may not start for five years and could take several years to complete, the town needs a “quick fix” to relieve congestion in the interim, says Brannon Tupper, assistant town engineer.
Tupper came up with the plan for the reconfiguring the lanes under the interstate to allow for better separation of northbound and southbound left turn lanes onto I-40/75. But he doesn’t deserve all the credit. He got the idea when he himself was waiting in northbound traffic on Campbell Station Road. He watched a frustrated motorist proceed from the center turn lane through the channelized area (the crosshatched lane meant to move traffic into the correct lane) to cut the long line to get onto the westbound interstate. It was a dangerous maneuver, but it worked. Tupper was inspired to create a plan to better utilize existing lanes.
The town hired Cannon & Cannon Consulting Engineers to study the concept. They created a simulation of the intersection using Tupper’s idea, plugged in traffic counts and recommended the lane configuration that would provide the best level of service.
The new configuration will have two lanes for northbound traffic – a dedicated lane for those turning left onto the interstate and a second lane for those proceeding north on Campbell Station Road. Currently, there is only one lane for northbound traffic going under the interstate.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the contract for the work at last week’s meeting, and construction is expected to begin this summer. The work should take six weeks and be completed before school starts on Aug. 8.
Like every other construction project, the cost of the “quick fix” has gone up significantly since town staff began considering it. The low bid for the project was $513,700 when the original estimate was $278,000. Town Engineer Darryl Smith explained to the board that, in addition to the 25% increase in the cost of labor and materials, the work is expensive because it will need to be done at night and in close quarters, which is more labor intensive.
The result will be more lanes in approximately the same space, so the lanes will be narrow. One benefit of narrower lanes is that they encourage careful driving, Alderman Scott Meyer said.
“Great work, guys, working with what you have,” said Alderman Drew Burnette of the engineering department. “I think this sounds like a great plan.”
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