TDOT says truck climbing lane in Benton Co. will make I-40 safer

BENTON COUNTY, Tenn. — When driving east on Interstate 40 in Benton County, you may notice some extensive construction.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation says the $8.2 million project is for trucker safety and the safety of all drivers on the interstate.

“Twenty-five, 30 years ago, we started on this, showing the state that we have a problem here at the gateway to West Tennessee,” said Bob Keast, owner of Birdsong Resort and Marina. “We have a problem here at exit 133.”

Keast says he’s been concerned about safety at the Birdsong exit on I-40 for years.

“I can’t tell you the number of traffic accidents here on I-40, right here at this exit,” Keast said.

So in Spring of 2017, TDOT says they initiated an $8.2 million project that will create what they call a truck climbing lane for the two miles of road that run between exit 132 and 134.

“When you have a steep incline, the trucks can’t keep up with the average traffic of let’s say our speed limit of 70 miles per hour,” Keast said.

“So it provides an area for the trucks to be able to go up their lane safer instead of blocking the lanes that the everyday motorists are in,” said Nichole Lawrence, community relations officer at TDOT.

TDOT representatives say this highway expansion project should be completed around the summer of 2018, but they say motorists don’t need to worry about it interfering with their commute.

“There is some width restrictions through there,” Lawrence said. “You can tell that there’s an active construction project. We’ve had various, but very minimal, lane closures in this project.”

TDOT also reminds drivers to pay attention to road work signs, be aware of construction workers and vehicles, and to drive cautiously through any road project area.