The cones are out and contractors are hard at work on one of the most complained-about roads in Nashville: The I-440 loop.
Tuesday, The Tennessee Department of Transportation invited NewsChannel 5 Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher to the first work site, along I-440 eastbound between the West End Ave and 21st Ave/Hillsboro Pike exits.
Crews are leveling the ground there to make way for one of four new sound walls to help homeowners who live along the I-440 corridor.
The larger project will cost $153 million to eventually widen the road, add a barrier median wall and replace the crumbling concrete with asphalt.
But project manager Clayton Markham says smaller projects must come first.
"There's some fiber line that has to be removed and moved to a new location to make way for those additional lanes," he said, "there's also lighting, all the lighting throughout the corridor will be replaced with new LED lighting."
TDOT warns drivers that construction will become the new normal along I-440, with the major daytime lane closures slated to start late February. But auxiliary lane closures will happen occasionally before then.
"There's going to be a lot of people, a lot of equipment moving back and forth so be aware, pay attention, slow down, move over where you can and overall be safe when you're driving," Markham said.
TDOT vows to keep two lanes of traffic flowing in each direction during the day throughout the entirety of the project. However, once the major work begins in the spring, multiple lanes will shut down overnight.
By August of 2020, they say the loop will be a safer, more efficient and smoother ride for everyone.
TDOT says the median wall will eliminate the catastrophic head-on collisions occasionally reported along I-440 and make way for additional lanes along the interior. And the new asphalt will be an easier and even quieter surface for drivers.
"We're hard at work, we're working full-time trying to make sure this road gets done and gets done well and everyone's safe while doing it," Markham said.
If contractors don't make the final deadline, one year and nine months from now, they lose big. The penalty is $100,000 per day for the first 30 days. After that, they lose $400,000 dollars per day.