Knoxville (WVLT) - In January of 2003, drivers in west Knoxville began to see Interstate 40 transform from a highway into a construction zone. Now, almost three years later, we're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel has more from the Papermill interchange, where just Thursday, TDOT crews re-opened another road there.
At three Thursday afternoon, police escorted the first few drivers through the new lane of Papermil Drive. Now, there's traffic moving in both directions. A move drivers are very happy about. It not only saves them from detouring all the way around to Weisgarber, but it also saves them the headache of sitting in gridlock traffic.
"I love it. It saves me a lot of time," motorist Bruce Fisher said.
For the first time in a long time, Papermill Drive underneath Interstate-40 is open in both directions.
"I go this way everyday because I'm in nursing school at St. Mary's, so I'm very excited," motorist Shelly Garner said.
She's so excited because for the past two years, she and other drivers had to detour. But now...
"They can take a left on Papermill instead of going all the way down to Weisgarber," Travis Brickey from TDOT said.
"I'm just glad it's open... keep me from going all the way around the road now," one motorist said.
Some drivers even had to backtrack to and from work.
"It gets bumper-to-bumper on that road down to Weisgarber, and you have to sit there for 20 minutes sometimes," Garner said.
Well, it's nothing like the gridlock drivers experience at the Papermill and Weisgarber intersection, but even with the new lane opening, traffic is still getting a bit backed up between lights. That's because this entire interchange isn't complete just yet. First, crews had to divert traffic to the Westbound lanes so they could close the eastbound lane for construction.
"There's multiple lanes in each direction with turn lanes. That's the final configuration," Brickey said.
That's expected in one month, but in the meantime, drivers are very satisfied with their new route.
"I mean, I go on Northshore this way and I've been sad the whole time that that road was closed and I just love the fact that they've opened this back up again. I've been waiting for this for a long time." Fisher said.
Again, this particular part of Papermill's interchange is supposed to be finished in a month. That's when there will be two lanes in each direction. The entire project is expected to be done by the end of December.