SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – The new diverging diamond intersection at Interstate 40 Exit 407 in Sevier County is scheduled to open on Tuesday. Signage will be in place to direct drivers to I-40, Highway 66 and local businesses.
A partial detour will be in place from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Monday to finish final paving and striping. Traffic on I-40 West wanting to go south on Highway 66 must detour at exit 402 and return to I-40 East. Traffic on I-40 East wanting to go north on Highway 66 must detour at exit 412 and return to I-40 West.1
People in the area say they are hopeful it will alleviate some big traffic backups.
“On our road we couldn’t even get out of our driveway because traffic was so backed up past the flea market just waiting to get onto this highway right here,” said Thomas Rimmer.
Rimmer has lived in Kodak for 16 years and says it is no secret that certain times of year, especially summer, the interchange is flooded with cars.
“Getting off the interstate back up sometimes maybe 10 miles down the interstate,” he said.
TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi says about 34,000 vehicles each day use State Route 66 in the area of I-40.
“What this interchange is going to do is help alleviate a lot of the traffic backups that you’ll see,” he said.
With the new diverging diamond, traffic will criss-cross on Highway 66, ideally allowing those getting off the interstate to flow more freely.
“It’s one of those things that people are really going to have to drive it a couple times. There’s going to be signage in the area that will direct you where you need to go,” said Nagi.
It will take some getting used to, but many are hopeful when it is all said and done you won’t find yourself caught in a jam.
“I think it’s going to be kind of crazy first to start out with but after that I think people will start getting used to it,” said Rimmer.
Drivers are encouraged to use caution and pay close attention to signs and pavement markings as they grow accustomed to the new traffic pattern.
Alcoa Highway diverging diamond
The only intersection like it in our area is off Alcoa Highway at Midsettlements Road. People around there say it has helped traffic a lot.
“Traffic would always back up out here on the road, and people would come in and out of our store. They couldn’t even get out of the parking lot. They’d have to wait sometimes up to like 10 minutes,” said Wally Kersey.
Wally Kersey is talking about traffic on Midsettlements Road in Alcoa but says he has not seen that kind of traffic in the five years since the diverging diamond interchange opened.
“Once it got done it turned out so good. Now there’s no traffic hardly. People can get in and out,” he said.
Nagi says that kind of intersection was chosen for a few reasons, one of those being money. This construction was about $30 million cheaper than other options. He says another reason is safety.
Nagi says the chances for T-bone crashes are much slimmer.
“Sometimes you’ll see a car turning left, somebody goes through a red light and slams into them. What this project does, it eliminates the possibility of that because the traffic will be moved into one certain area. You won’t have anybody turning left into oncoming traffic anymore,” he said.
Kersey is very familiar with the traffic jams at that interstate exit.
“From Friday until Sunday it took me an hour just from 407 to get where I was going,” he said.
He says after seeing the success of the diverging diamond interchange at Midsettlements Road he is anxious to see the results of this new one.
“I’m thinking when they get this done it’s going to really make a big difference there because it’s going to really lighten up the traffic and you’ll be able to get through there in about 30 minutes or 25 minutes even,” said Kersey.
Crews will continue to work after Tuesday to complete the median curb and gutter and place permanent paving and striping on Highway 66. The whole project is scheduled to be done by late September.More online: I-40 Exit 407 Diverging Diamond Intersection Project