By Nick DePasquale
After years of construction, it was opened. Now some wish it was closed. The Diverging Diamond interchange at exit 407 on I-40 is a reality. “It’s horrible,” said Thomas Marshall of Newport. “We have to go through it every day.” “We just now got in it but I don’t like it,” said a Sevierville resident. “We’re locals so it makes it really, really hard to get in and out.”
Overnight rain pushed back progress causing some traffic jams Tuesday. For many in Sevier County, it was an afternoon spent staring at brake lights.
Drivers passing over Interstate 40 cross onto the left side of the overpass at a stoplight, so that the left turn onto the freeway is not into oncoming traffic. This is designed to help handle increased tourism traffic.
State and local officials championed the efficiency and economic benefits of the improved intersection, even if drivers Tuesday didn’t see much of that improvement. Some on Highway 66 waited 45 minutes to get through the limited lanes.
“We really think it’s going to help and make this intersection a whole lot safer,” said one commissioner. What else can you expect a commissioner to say? Can you imagine him shaking his head and saying, “Well, we really screwed up this time. This is a mess!”
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. He also said this isn’t the end of the road for congestion issues. “We’re continuing to look for other ways to improve traffic flow in the county, so this is not a cure-all for all of the traffic issues,” Waters said.