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Lane closures to continue on I-640 for many months during reconstruction project

The eastern half of I-640 will be under construction for more than a year starting Sunday as crews turn the old road into rubble and pave a new one on top of it.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Transportation has begun pulverizing and reconstructing a section of I-640 in northeast Knoxville, hoping to ensure drivers won't bounce around in their seats or need to dodge dips and potholes on that road.

TDOT said the second construction phase of construction from the North Broadway exit to the I-40 interchange on the east end near Asheville Highway began on July 10, bringing I-640 down to two lanes in construction zones with traffic shifts.

All lanes on both sides of the interstate will eventually be reconstructed over the next year, but crews will be working on specific lanes and sections at a time to reduce traffic interruptions.

In early July, construction crews began setting up equipment and trucks underneath the Millertown Pike overpass. Cones and concrete barriers were set along the lanes where construction was happening, starting with the area between the Washington Pike overpass and the eastern I-40/I-640 interchange near Asheville Highway. 

The construction will cost more than $20 million and should be completed by November 2023.

"People, they just don't want to drive on those roads where you get the thumpity-thump,” said Jay Rosen, who drives on I-640 every day. 

Data collected by the TDOT shows nearly 90,000 people drive on the section of interstate every single day. 

"Three of the five highest volumes on the interstate in Tennessee are in Knoxville,” said a spokesperson for TDOT. 

The interstate was completed in 1982, and now the old concrete sections are damaged beyond the point of repair because of faulting. The many cracks and dips along the interstate have made it increasingly difficult to drive on.

Experts said that many drivers may choose to drive in one specific lane instead of others that could be in disrepair. As a result, the highway ends up with a diminished capability to handle surges in traffic.

Researchers at TDOT also said road deterioration happens naturally over time due to age, weather and traffic demands. 

To fix the problems, TDOT will reconstruct the road entirely by pulverizing the old concrete surface into rubble and paving over it. TDOT said this rubblization process will help shorten construction downtime by allowing crews to "recycle" the old roadway into rubble for the new foundation.

TDOT leaders said the project will also make it easier to maintain the road in the future.

"This will allow us longevity on the road to last a long time,” said a spokesperson for TDOT.

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