Arlington studies I-40 interchange improvements

As printed in The Daily Memphis | Author: Michael Waddell

Traffic congestion at the Airline Road interchange of Interstate 40 is causing Arlington officials to search for improvements.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution to work with Kimley-Horn for professional services related to construction of roundabouts at expressway ramps.

The tear-drop roundabouts would replace the two traffic signals at the interchange, creating a constant flow of traffic and eliminating the congestion.

Arlington Town Engineer Steve Hill expects the study to take about six months, followed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and Federal Highway Administration reviews.

“They’ll be looking at alternative interchanges,” Hill said. “There’s a chance we’ll consider something like the Lakeland single-point urban interchange. We kind of prefer the roundabout, but we don’t want to tie anybody’s hands. If there’s a better alternative that’s going to take care of us long-term, we certainly want to consider that.”

Last year, Alderman Jeremy Biggs contacted state Sen. Paul Rose, R-Covington, and asked for his support about needed changes at the interchange.

“At that time, the response came back that something had been presented to (TDOT), but it really wasn’t on their radar,” said Biggs, who notes the area is the main entrance into Arlington from both westbound and eastbound onto Airline Road. It is also the hub for the town’s commercial businesses and future development.

The alderman said that while Airline Road was expanded to five lanes, a bridge and the interstate ramps are not set up to handle the heavy traffic, particularly at rush hour. And the future could add more pressure on the congestion.

“With the recent announcement of the Ford facility only 17 miles from Arlington, my concerns have deepened knowing future development will be on an even faster timetable than before,” Biggs said.

Hill said TDOT’s official position is that they don’t have a problem with the interchange because “it works.”

“Now, they don’t consider how congested the traffic getting off the interstate gets in the evenings and the mornings,” Hill said.

Widening the bridge over 1-40 is not an option.

“TDOT won’t allow that bridge to be widened because it has 95% of its life expectancy left,” Arlington Town Administrator Cathy Durant said. “So what we’re doing is just reconfiguring the traffic pattern over the bridge.”

TDOT has agreed to put $1 million into the improvement project once it reaches construction, and Hill hopes to ask for more as well as additional funding from the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization).

The town has tried to make the case to TDOT that traffic backs up into what would be the weaving section of the 385/I-40 off-ramp.

“We haven’t been able to convince them yet,” Hill said. “If that shows up in this study, it certainly gives us an impetus to say: ‘TDOT, part of this is your problem. Help us solve it.’”

The town is also considering applying for some Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds through TDOT for several potential projects that would provide safe routes (sidewalks or bike paths) for non-drivers.

Previous TAP projects in Arlington include work done at Depot Square in 2002 and Memphis-Arlington Road bike-pedestrian connectors in 2013.

Projects currently being considered are a sidewalk on Airline Road in front of Microport as well as one running from the Arlington Sports Complex to the Arlington Tennis Center.

Biggs also suggested a sidewalk running from the Arlington Cemetery to the Playground of Dreams on Chester Street.