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.