I-40/81 Corridor Study

Study Overview

This study identified short- and long-term solutions for improving problem spots along the Interstate corridor between Memphis and Bristol. The study investigated a range of multi-modal solutions to address future travel demands, with emphases on managing congestion, improving safety, maximizing the potential for freight diversion, and preserving/enhancing the corridor's economic benefits.

Major Findings

The Interstate 40/Interstate 81 (I-40/I-81) Corridor from Memphis to Bristol was identified through the statewide planning effort as a strategic statewide corridor and several projects along the corridor are included in the 10-Year Strategic Investments Plan as a high priority. The purpose of the I-40/I-81 Corridor Feasibility Study was to gain a more detailed understanding of the deficiencies of the corridor and to develop corridor level multi-modal solutions to address these deficiencies. The study considered improvements to the I-40/I-81 corridor, investigated parallel arterials to I-40/I-81 that could be used for local travel, rail lines that could be candidates for freight diversion from the interstate, and considered major inter-modal hubs located along the corridor. The study area for the I-40/I-81 corridor extends from Memphis to Bristol, a distance of about 550 miles.

The study area traverses 27 of the 95 counties within Tennessee and falls within nine of the twelve Rural Planning Organization (RPO) boundaries and eight of the eleven Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) areas. Numerous cities including Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Lebanon, Cookeville, Crossville, Knoxville, Sevierville, Jefferson City, Morristown, Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol are dependent upon this corridor for commerce, tourism, and daily access. The study area also includes parallel Class I railroads, including their junctions with short-line railroads.


The report makes the following recommendations:

Construction of Improvements that Provide an Alternative to Traveling I-40 and I-81
Based on a comparison of the benefits of building the following three solutions to their costs, which are estimated at $1.3 billion (2008 dollars) or $2.1 billion (year-of-expenditure costs), the following proposed improvements would provide a cost-effective alternative to using I-40 and I-81:
- New crossing of Mississippi River in Memphis
- North 2nd/ 3rd Street Connector, also in Memphis
- Knoxville Parkway (SR-475) in Knoxville

Expanded Intelligent Transportation Systems and Incident Management Programs
Over 136 miles of additional coverage for TDOT’s existing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and incident management (HELP) programs are recommended based on B/C analysis completed during this study. New installations, at an estimated capital/equipment cost and ongoing operating expenses of $41 million (year-of-expenditure dollars), are proposed along:
- 10 miles of I-40 at the Tennessee River Bridge/Cuba Landing x 9 miles of I-40 at the Piney River Bridge south of Dickson
- 51 miles of I-40 located both east and west of Nashville x 48 miles of I-40 across the Cumberland Plateau
- 18 miles of I-81 in Tri-Cities

Interchange, Ramp and Bridge Improvements
Operational solutions at 14 locations along I-40 and I-81 are recommended to address specific congestion or safety issues. These improvements were identified using information provided in interviews with representatives of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local transportation officials. The proposed improvements, at an estimated cost of $110 million in 2008 dollars or $148 million in year-of-expenditure costs, also are based on highway capacity and accident analyses performed along I-40 and I-81.

Truck Climbing Lanes
In order to address congestion and safety issues associated with trucks traveling up steep grades on I-40 and I-81, construction of truck climbing lanes is recommended at 15 locations where the added lane provides the greatest benefits. The cost of widening the interstate at these locations is estimated at $366 million (in 2008 dollars) or $480 million (in year-of-expenditure dollars).

The report also highlights the following strategies and future activities to be considered by TDOT, MPOs, TPOs and RPOs to address freight, operations and economic development issues along the corridor:
- Assess the public benefits of Norfolk Southern Railroad’s proposed improvements to the Crescent Corridor within Tennessee as they are identified. x Inventory truck parking supply along I-40/I-81 to determine any imbalances in demand for overnight truck parking
- Improve the management and enforcement of existing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes located along I-40 in Nashville and Memphis.
- Study the feasibility of specific active traffic management (ATM) strategies along I-40 and I-81.
- Use the ranking of possible future interchanges on I-40 and I-81 developed in this study as one factor when additional access to the interstate is considered.

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