Patricia Montesinos
Staff Writer

The Tennessee Department of Transportation and Knoxville Area Transit have united forces in what is an expedited construction project to fix several area’s bridges and highways. Aptly named SmartFix40, the Knoxville section of the project includes Interstate 40, from Interstate-275 to Cherry Street, and Hall of Fame Drive.
Blueprints for the interstate’s facelift were started well over five years ago, and many different options were looked at when trying to find an expedient plan. The challenge came in TDOT working its way around the three different historic neighborhoods that run along the interstates. TDOT reached out to members of the community for feedback on the SmartFix plans for I-40. It all started with a Plan A, and the project currently under way is Plan K.
A TDOT official explained that a plan to fix I-275 and I-40 was imminent because the design of the interstates is currently dangerous. The interstates have one of the worst safety records in the country. The influx of traffic has significantly increased since the section of I-40 was built in the 1960s.
According to the TDOT Web site, SmartFix is the most expensive project in TDOT history, totaling around $175 million. The section of I-40 will be widened to three lanes, which will ease the flow of traffic.
TDOT wanted to get the construction done fast, but a normal-paced project would have begun in 2005 and gone until 2013. With the hazardous conditions of I-40 and I-275, a long project was not a viable option. Today, the project is split into four phases, one of which has already been completed. In phase one, Hall of Fame Drive now connects Summit Hill Drive and Broadway. The Glenwood Bridge over Hall of Fame was replaced, Summit Hill Bridge over First Creek and James White Parkway has been replaced and improvements have been made to many city streets. The interchange between Hall of Fame Drive and I-40 was also built.
More improvements are underway. Phase two will require total closure of James White Parkway for 10 months. Traffic between I-40 and downtown will be detoured to the new Hall of Fame Drive interchange, to provide commuters with continuous access to the city. There will be a ramp from east I-40 to James White Parkway, and the Church Avenue Bridge will be replaced.
In phases three and four, I-40 will be widened to three lanes in each direction from I-275 to Cherry Street, according to the SmartFix Web site. During this time, I-40 will be completely shut down for a total of 14 months. Traffic will be diverted to I-640.
Currently, motorists should be on the lookout for rolling roadblocks, lane closures and shifts and changing conditions between I-40 East and West. Broadway between Fifth Avenue and Depot Avenue will be closed today from 7 p.m. through 7 a.m. Jackson Avenue will be closed through Feb. 3, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The new Church Avenue bridge will be completed and reopened September 2007.