(WBIR - Sevier County) A construction project at one of East Tennessee's busiest exit ramps could make moving off the interstate more dangerous before the long-term solution is finished.
Exit 407 off of I-40 is known for backing up for miles as drivers try to make their way to Sevier County.
Kristin Qualls, the district 18 engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), said, "Traffic backs up if you're traveling eastbound. It'll back up for miles on a Friday or a Saturday as people are trying to get to Sevier County."
To help fix that problem, TDOT is building a diverging diamond interchange at the Sevierville exit.
"The easiest way to [describe] it is you're actually taking traffic and you're putting it on the opposite side, the side you don't expect to be driving on," said Qualls.
The diverging diamond will force drivers to head in only one direction. But while the project is underway, there's bound to be cars at a standstill on the interstate as the shoulder near Exit 407 is now off limits.
TDOT said every weekend a Sevier County deputy will be positioned at the end of the partition keeping a close eye on traffic. If it begins to back up, that deputy will then contact a second deputy positioned at the traffic signal at the I-40 / Highway 66 intersection. The deputy there will then manually change the light to help relieve some of that traffic congestion.
"We also have another part of the project, it's a work zone detection system. It's the first really we've used in East Tennessee and it alerts these message boards to populate and it'll say 'traffic is slowing' or 'slow speeds ahead' or 'expect to stop,'" Qualls added.
The messages on the boards are based on real-time information collected from radar in the work zone.
It's just another way of trying to make travel to Sevier County a little easier and safer.
TDOT said crews recently discovered asbestos in the bridge paint. Drivers can expect to see tarps in the work zone as crews remove the asbestos, a 45-day process. TDOT said the discovery has pushed the original project completion date back from May 2015 to July 2015.