Anyone using the Millertown Pike or Washington Pike I-640 exits at rush hour has found themselves sitting through long queues and traffic backups. There are lots of cars traveling between I-640 and area restaurants, shops and home in East Knox subdivisions. On Millertown Pike drivers must pass through four traffic lights in less than a quarter-mile.
Often that means jaw-clenching delays (if you are on a schedule) and an increased risk of rear-end accidents. Too many cars stopped on the exit ramp back up dangerously close to speeding interstate thru traffic, which continues past this I-640 Exit No. 8. Those traffic concerns triggered a TDOT interchange study several years ago, and there have been one or more public meetings to discuss needed changes.
Some of you have also wondered what might happen to traffic if an Amazon-like fulfillment center is built on the mall property. The good news is the current TDOT redesign is sufficient to handle the projected truck traffic increases such a facility would bring.
The two roads, so two projects. Plans are in place to make substantial improvements to these exit roads and related traffic signals. The budget for these two projects (around Exit 8), covering all four on-off ramps at Millertown and Washington Pikes, totals $4.2 million. Both projects will be handled under one construction contract.
Land acquisition is currently underway by TDOT. Construction is projected to begin sometime in winter/ spring 2021 and take more than a year to complete.
The Millertown exit project will widen the ramp or vehicle storage capacity to keep queued cars out of harms’ way from fast-moving interstate thru traffic.
It will also add a second right turn lane onto Millertown Pike East to relieve traffic at the intersection of Millertown Pike and Kinzel Way (the side road leading to Walmart) to move more cars through that intersection.
This through lane will continue east to the Loves Creek intersection. Traffic signals at both the exit ramp and Kinzel Way will be modified and upgraded to improve overall traffic flow.
A second project addresses spot improvements to the remaining three intersections at Exit 8 (the Millertown on-ramp, and the on-off ramps located on both side of the interstate at Washington Pike). This will improve vehicle handling capacity at those intersections and the related traffic signal operation. As noted, this work will begin next spring and extend over two years. (The Washington Pike on-ramp is shown in photo above.)
Nick Della Volpe is a lawyer, a gardener and a former member of Knoxville City Council.