Weekly Obsession: I-440: Like Gaudí, but with cars

Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 10:05pm

Interstate 440 is sort of Nashville’s pavement analogue to Spain’s La Sagrada Familia.

Like the Barcelona basilica, notable for its modernist-Gothic curvilinear facades designed by Antoni Gaudí, 440 is seemingly under constant construction and simultaneously a source of derision and begrudging appreciation.

It’s hard to imagine life without Nashville’s loopy connector, a convenient arc linking Interstates 24, 40 and 65.

It’s also hard to imagine getting home before American Idol while sitting on 440 at rush hour, because the same powers-that-be who shepherded the controversial project 25 years ago agreed to make it as unobtrusive as possible and thus only two lanes in each direction.

That’s a tough ask for a road with average daily traffic north of 100,000 vehicles.

Traffic is so bad, in fact, that 440’s interchange with 24 is the 27th worst bottleneck in the country, the American Transportation Research Institute announced last week.

It’s the first time the junction made the list, and lo and behold, TDOT also announced last week it will start adding eastbound lanes at the interchange in October.

This raises some obvious questions.

First: If not widening, what the heck have they been doing in that part of the loop for the better part of the last gazillion or so years? Apparently, repaving (which raises another question: why not widen and repave simultaneously?).

Next: Where are those lanes going to go exactly? The loop is already snug against the neighborhoods between Nolensville Road and I-24 and at times elevated. TDOT says the plan involves lane shifting and, perhaps, sorcery.

The project — only a mile-and-a-half stretch — is slated for an August 2013 completion date. Then, after 34 months of increased snarl, Nashville drivers can experience decades of delayed gratification. In the meantime, TDOT suggests seeking an alternate route — but offers no suggestions on what that might be.

Those who find an effective shortcut might make it home in time to vote on American Idol, if they’re lucky. The rest will be stuck waiting interminably, like the citizens of Barcelona waiting for Sagrada Familia’s completion. 

9 Comments on this post:

By: bruingeek on 10/3/11 at 6:00

The 440 parkway relieved traffic on the Woodmont-Thomson Lane-Briley Parkway loop...perhaps it is time to re-visit the widening of Woodmont through the two-lane neighborhoods. Perhaps there is a senator who will step up and promise that there won't be any semi-trailer traffic on the road through those neighborhoods. *sarcasm*

By: caluttc on 10/3/11 at 6:35

Things could be worse. Had opposition to 440 prevailed, the 440 traffic would be on Woodmont.

By: govskeptic on 10/3/11 at 7:42

Initially planned as a "Parkway" for only automobile traffic, as completion
neared, the State under Gov. McWherther challenged the use of this
roadway as being for cars only in Federal Court. Ruling was: since
Federal dollars were used could not be confined to just cars (Irony
is the D.C. and other areas in the U.S. do have this restrictions for
cars only). McWherter also just happened to be in trucking business
as well, and this is an industry that has always had extremely large
influence within city and state government. Not sure 840 will ever give
re-leaf sought or needed for 440 truck traffic!

By: dogmrb on 10/3/11 at 7:46

That would be the same senator who introduced the Federal legislation to allow double semi-trailers too ;-)

By: dan3843 on 10/3/11 at 9:16

If they're going to fix the intersection then do it and extend the lane(s) all the way to at least Haywood Lane to allow room for traffic to merge..

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