KODAK, Tenn. (WATE) — Exit 407 traffic signs on Interstate 40 in Sevier County have been photographed by tourists, posted on social media, and inspired artwork and Christmas ornaments. In the 1990s, there was even an “Exit 407” local country band.
Now it appears the icon is getting a sidekick, in the form of a sister exit just one mile east.
Like asphalt in the summer heat, plans for Exit 408 are firm but not solid. The creation of the new exit will depend on Governor Bill Lee’s budget.
Information known about the proposed location and design of Exit 408 comes from draft plans drawn up by a Knoxville engineering firm in June 2022 and sponsored by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Tribe. It is part of the two major developments underway a mile or so up the road at Exit 407.
The draft report states that the Cherokee Indian Tribe is committed to “make the SR-66 and Bryan Road accesses equally attractive to motorists.”
The plan, an interstate access request, has only been released in draft form. The final plan was submitted to the Tennessee Department of Transportation‘s Strategic Investment Division. The content of that draft hints at what is to come for one of the most famous — and soon-to-be more congested — sections of Interstate 40.
Where will Exit 408 be?
Plans for the new exit call for traffic to exit and enter I-40 at Bryan Road, a two-lane that crosses under the interstate about 1.3 miles east of Exit 407. The road leads to Douglas Dam Road in the south and is the eastern border of property involved in the Cherokee Development.
To meet Bryan Road, the Cherokee Tribe says in the draft document they are “committed to constructing a spine road through their development that extends from State Route 66 to Bryan Road.” This would run parallel to I-40.
Bridge replacements would connect the two sides of a realigned Bryan Road and bring the road above the interstate rather than below, as it is now. The document also says the road would be extended south toward Douglas Dam Road, but it is unclear if that means forging a new path or altering the road that now exists.
The only environmental constraint in the draft report is Dumplin Creek, which runs south of and parallels to I-40. Tuckahoe Creek, north of I-40, is not expected to be impacted by the proposed new interchange.
“The preliminary review of environmental characteristics in the area did not uncover any issues that would prevent the proposed new Exit 408 interchange from moving forward,” the draft report summary states.
What could Exit 408 look like?
The draft shares several options that were considered for the design of a potential Exit 408. The first — not building at all — was quickly dismissed due to “significant queue impacts” that are expected on the eastbound I-40 exit ramp … that will extend onto the I-40 mainline for a significant distance” once planned projects, such as Buc-ee’s, open for business.
A diamond interchange with a 2-lane westbound entrance ramp was also considered as “Build Alternative 1.” Both ramps would have traffic signals.
“Build Alternative 2” is a partial diamond with a loop in the southeast quadrant that intercepts the Cherokee Development access road. According to recommendations in the draft traffic study, this design is the preferred option.
“Build Alternative 3” is a modification to Exit 407 with “collector-distributor” roads that extend to Bryan Road. This idea was not even developed as a concept because due to cost, according to the draft document.
The draft also says that each of these designs includes these details:
- Near I-40, Bryan Road will be realigned east of its current alignment with new bridges proposed.
- Also near I-40, Bryan Road would be two lanes per direction with a raised median
- Access to the Cherokee Development from Bryan Road would be via a new road about 500 feet from the I-40 centerline
- The Cherokee Development’s access road will need to be signalized at the intersection with Bryan Road
Cost of growth
The draft plan, which undoubtedly has changed in the months since it was compiled, estimates the cost of the new intersection at $86.7 million.
Signs for the new exit were projected in the draft plan to cost just over $1.3 million, including those iconic green ones guiding tourists through perhaps a new Gateway to the Smokies.
Any interchange that is approved will be a partnership between the Cherokee Tribe, Sevier County, the City of Sevierville, TDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.
As for future development, the draft plan says, “Two Sevier County interchanges on I-40 will provide adequate capacity to meet traffic demand through the year 2047.”