Relief is coming for drivers who face frequent traffic backups as they exit northbound Interstate 75 at Exit 122 to access Clinton, Norris and Andersonville via Tennessee 61/Andersonville Highway.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation will begin construction within a few weeks on a reconfiguration of the ramp, which will bring three new 170-foot turn lanes – two for left-turning traffic and one for vehicles turning right.
Each lane will be 12 feet wide – enough to easily contain the girth of the many tractor-trailer rigs that use the exit daily.
As the ramp is now configured, there is one left-turn lane for traffic heading west toward Clinton as it approaches Tennessee 61, and a short -- nearly non-existent -- right-turn lane for vehicles heading east toward Norris and Andersonville.
During busy traffic times, vehicles often get backed up down the ramp almost to I-75 as they wait for the traffic signal to change so they can make the left turn toward Clinton, Walmart and other businesses across I-75.
When that happens, traffic trying to turn right toward Norris often drives up the right shoulder of the ramp to reach the right-turn lane, rather than sitting with the rest of the traffic in the stalled left lane.
While that’s technically illegal, it’s a common practice. Some drivers wait in the long line with their right-turn signals flashing, while others just go ahead and navigate around the queue to get to the right-turn lane much quicker.
During heavy traffic backups, it can take two cycles of the light to make it through for left-turning vehicles.
In conjunction with the construction of the new turn lanes, TDOT also will redesign and replace the current traffic signals at the intersection, said Clinton City Manager Roger Houck.
“This project will go a long way toward alleviating the traffic backups at that key off-ramp,” said Houck, who noted that Exit 122 is the major entry point for the Clinton area off I-75, as well as for Norris, Andersonville and other points east. It’s also popular with out-of-state drivers who want to get off the interstate to eat at the many restaurants around the exit.
Contractor for the work will be Twin K Construction of Scott County, according to Clinton public works consultant Lynn Murphy. He previously served as the city’s long-time public works director.
Murphy attended a pre-construction meeting at the TDOT regional office in Knoxville last week to hear details of the Exit 122 project, and said afterward that the work is set to begin soon, and is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 31.
The TDOT-funded project will cost $763,000, and will provide “much more capacity and a safer interstate exit,” Murphy said after the meeting.
“The city of Clinton wishes to thank TDOT, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and state Rep. John Ragan for their support and assistance in securing this project,” Murphy said.