Traffic alert: I-40 bridge construction to start, expect delays

The construction is expected to take around six months or until May of next year, a release stated.
Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 2:32 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Travelers, expect delays traveling on I-40 if you are heading to North Carolina as crews will be replacing the 56-year-old bridge on I-40 over Harmon Den Road and Cold Springs Creek in Haywood County, officials announced.

A contractor for the N.C. Department of Transportation will close one lane in each direction approaching Exit 7 starting Saturday, Nov. 13.

The construction is expected to take around six months or until May of next year, a release stated.

NCDOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation officials have been working together to coordinate a traffic plan to plan for anticipated major delays.

Both organizations also suggested for motorists take alternate routes, such as I-26 or I-81.

“There are a lot of factors in play here, including the absolute need to replace the bridge, the topography of the area, and the lack of services for more than 20 miles,” NCDOT Division 14 Construction Engineer Mitchell Bishop said. “We considered a variety of construction and traffic alternatives before settling on the onsite detour during the winter as the best option.”

Drivers should not take any exit in Newport and Ashville to travel mountain roads. A statement warned that travel apps may suggest those but to be cautious as some may be gravel or could be steep and include sharp curves.

It should be noted that trucks are prohibited from driving U.S. 25/70 through Madison and Cocke counties, TDOT and NCDOT said.

Real-time traffic information will be available on the SmartWay website, provided by TDOT.

“For drivers, some days the best option will be to go north to Kingsport (Tenn.),” said NCDOT Regional Intelligent Traffic Systems Engineer Chad Franklin. “Then some days, travel may take a little less time by going slow through the gorge. One of the most important things drivers can do is to plan ahead and plan for delays.”

Officials said that the new bridge will include a path to help wildlife get from one side of the interstate to the other. A 9-foot-tall fence will funnel animals to the path under the bridge and away from traffic.

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