Monday, April 14, 2008

i-640: the new i-40 (let's keep it that way)

Automobile-crazy Knoxville is buzzing about the I-40 closure in downtown. "It's the end of life as we know it!" lament gas-guzzling Knoxvillians, "This will add six minutes to my hour commute!"

True, blowing through downtown at 60 mile an hour does get you through the center of the city fast. But at what cost?

Many people realize nowadays that the interstate policies of the 1960s have caused a huge cluster you-know-what in American cities. Many towns committed urban seppuku, bisecting themselves for the hope of the commerce that would start rolling in. Since then, we've watched all that "commerce" speed right past us to truck stops across the county line. Would-be tourists look at our spaghetti exits and keep on going. "Maybe Asheville will be nicer." The crumbling warehouses that the city refuses to force a solution for don't help the "let's keep going" attitude.
But, we told ourselves, it's here and we have to deal with it. It's not like we can tear it down. Plus, people need it to get through Knoxville. There's not really an alternative. Right?

Wrong. No one is asking the question: If we can do just as well without it for fourteen months, why are we fixing it? Many cities have the loop option for their interstates, why can't we? I-640 is there, it obviously can handle the volume of traffic that comes through Knoxville. If it couldn't, the shut down wouldn't be possible. Yet we're allowing TDOT to spend millions on "fixing" something that may not even be necessary.

The disadvantages of having a raised interstate barrel through downtown are well known. It disconnects downtown from the inner neighborhoods. I-40 brings unwanted congestion and noise pollution to our city. The huge "spaghetti junctions" occupy acres of land that were once beautiful neighborhoods; land that could be tax generating instead of an overpass netherworld.
My opinion: shut it down and dismantle it. Let 640 be the new 40. Demolish the I-40 overpass in downtown. Reconnect the grid and and create new neighborhoods near downtown. Chattanooga is doing this, Nashville is doing this: why is Knoxville always playing catch up? Why are we "fixing" a road that does more harm than good? Urban interstates are part of a failed initiative of the 60s. No one is promoting building more housing projects, or demolishing historic neighborhoods for government mega towers. Why are interstates still sacred? C'mon Knoxville, let's do the right thing for a change.


The Pol said...

CK once again you're bang on. I posted on this last week on my candidacy blog.

We have banked on interstates to help Knoxville grow but instead it has nearly killed the city and created a disconnected series of suburban townships.

Another quality post my friend. You definitely have a bright future inside of my cabinet.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately 640 can't handle all that traffic on its own, just becuase TDOT is using it as the detour during the construction doesn't mean it can handle the traffic. They would close 40 regardless- they want this "fix" to be done. I travel 640 daily to and from work, and it is crowded enough. i can't imagine what its going to be like when 40 closes, it will be chaos. I don't like 40 either, i never travel it through downtown because of the barrelling trucks and rude drivers. i don't think the "smartfix" is the right solution, but coming from a person who uses 640 daily, tearing 40 down and letting 640 bear all the burden isn't the solution either.

stan said...

nice! your combination of obscure foreign references (japanese suicide in disgrace) and markedly more forcefully rhetorical style have convinced me!

seriously, good point. but as our other reader pointed out, would 640 really be able to handle the extra traffic?

also, as the disappointed voice of resignation on this one: they've already started construction. the chances of (1)stopping construction, (2)demolishing all the work already completed (not to mention a pre-existing interstate), and then (3)relocating that work to beef up 640 are shatteringly small.

my skepticism goes further though. what projects are you referring to in chattanooga and nashville? i didn't know they were demolishing interstates in either.

with a wary eye and callous heart,

Unknown said...

Another thing: I'll admit I haven't done more than read the coverage in the KNS, but I am at a complete loss to understand exactly what the "fix" is. I see the charts outlining the remaining projects and I have no idea how they address any of the congestion problems they are supposed to solve. We'll end up with the same traffic on fewer potholes. For a while.

And I couldn't agree more with the "Smart Fix CK." Alas, it's a bit late this time.

ck said...

anonymous is right- 640 in its current state couldn't handle the traffic. but there's more room up there for expansion than there is downtown. as you can see from the picture, tdot has resorted to cantilevering the interstate over magnolia to get enough room. and just so poor 640 doesn't bear the brunt of it, i'd also support building out john sevier highway to the south and making a true loop around knoxville.

stan, you bitter skeptic, you betray your suburban roots by not being aware of the "plan of nashville." they've proposed making 24 on the east side by lg field into a boulevard and doing away eventually with the inner interstate ring.

in chattanooga it wasn't an interstate, admittedly, but the city took the state route highway, that cut down town off from the river ala neyland dr., and converted it into a river street that's connected into the grid.

educate yo self, fool!

sadly, you guys are right. neyland stadium will be painted blue before tdot gets rid of its baby.

stan said...

i will admit ignorance when it comes to the plan of nashville. all i know is that they moved and a big trash heap, built a new bridge, and set an old plant on fire--er, replaced a plant that accidentally burned down. but that's just coming from a vapid punk who used to live there...

J. Molinaro said...

I don't drive through downtown Knoxville often, but it really does freak me out. All the lane changes on Henley disorient me. Nashville is so much easier to navigate--we have I-440, which completely avoids downtown, and then I-40, which goes through the outer part of downtown and loops around. You actually have to drive out of the heart of downtown Nashville to get to the interstate.

will cote said...