New interchange opens in Midtown Memphis

Drivers in the Memphis area saw a huge change, and a bit of confusion, as the new Midtown I-40/240 interchange opened Wednesday.

For the last three years, traffic has been diverted, and a lot of dirt has been dug, to reconfigure the interchange.  Jimmy Turner of Ray Bell Construction said changes to the road were necessary.

"It's very, very heavily traveled through this area," he said.

Turner should know, as the overseer of the reconfiguration project, which will improve the stretch of road.  The new I-240 south overpass is wider, and not as curvy as its predecessor.  The new design eliminates an interchange and replaces it with break-offs and flyovers, which engineers hope will reduce traffic congestion.

Turner said the new configuration will initially leave some drivers confused. "They'll be going the wrong way, but there are close exits nearby that they can use to get back on I-40 or wherever they're going to travel to."

Important improvements to the overpasses include making them as earthquake resistant as possible.  For that reason, many of the support structures anchored as deep as 50 feet, and they are triple reinforced with rebar, to with stand shaking.

The project was not scheduled to be completed until early 2007, but Turner said his crews should complete their work by mid-October.