Interstate 75 in Tennessee
Interstate 75 (I-75) in the U.S. state of Tennessee runs from Chattanooga to Jellico by way of Knoxville. I-75 enters the East Tennessee region following the Tennessee Valley from Georgia, all the way through Knoxville to near Rocky Top, then climbs into the Cumberland Mountains before crossing over into Kentucky at Jellico.
I-75 highlighted in red
|Maintained by TDOT|
|Length||161.86 mi (260.49 km)|
|South end||I-75 at Georgia state line|
| I-24 in Chattanooga|
I-40 in Knoxville
I-640 in Knoxville
I-275 in Knoxville
|North end||I-75 at Kentucky state line|
|Counties||Hamilton, Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Loudon, Knox, Anderson, Campbell|
Of the six states that I-75 traverses, the segment in Tennessee is the shortest, at 161.86 miles (260.49 km). Between Chattanooga and Knoxville, I-75 follows the route of U.S. Route 11 (US 11), and from Knoxville into Kentucky it follows the route of US 25W. Beginning in Chattanooga, I-75 follows the route of US 41 for the rest of the length to its southern terminus in Miami.
Interstate 75 enters Tennessee on the eastern side of East Ridge, a southern suburb of Chattanooga. Less than 1⁄2 mile (0.80 km) mile into Tennessee is an interchange with U.S. Route 41 (US 41/Unsigned US 76). About a mile later, at exit 2, is a three way interchange with the eastern terminus of Interstate 24, which runs west into Downtown Chattanooga and to Nashville. At this interchange, I-75 turns northeast, running along the eastern boundary of Chattanooga. Almost two miles later is an interchange with State Route 320 (SR 320), which connects to East Brainerd, and about a half mile later is a three way interchange with the southern terminus of SR 153, a controlled access highway that runs northwest to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport and crosses the Tennessee River on the Chickamauga Dam. Accessible from the northbound lanes at this interchange is Hamilton Place Boulevard, a connector to Hamilton Place Mall. The southbound lanes of I-75 are also accessible from an entrance ramp from this road. At this point, I-75 enters a large commercial area dominated by Hamilton Place, and has an interchange with Shallowford Road about a mile later. A few miles later, at exit 7, I-75 has an interchange with US 11 southbound, US 64 westbound and SR 317 westbound, and begins a concurrency with these respective routes. Turning slightly northeast, the interstate crosses a Norfolk Southern Railway and at exit 9, SR 317 splits off to the east. I-75 then crosses a steep ridge, passing between the Enterprise South Industrial Park to the west and Collegedale to the east. A few miles later, in Ooltewah, US 11/64 split off at exit 11, where the route narrows to six lanes. I-75 then turns northwest, and narrows to four lanes.
Bradley to Loudon CountiesEdit
A few miles later, I-75 begins a steep ascent up the western slope of White Oak Mountain, where the northbound lanes receive a truck climbing lane. At this point, the interstate turns northeast, and for the next three miles traverses east northeast over the top of White Oak Mountain, where it crosses into Bradley County. I-75 then runs for the next several miles through a predominantly wooded and agricultural area and crossing a few ridges before reaching Cleveland at an interchange with APD-40 eastbound (US 64 Bypass), a bypass and connector to US 64. Running along the western edge of Cleveland, I-75 has an interchange with SR 60 about 4.5 miles later, also crossing Candies Creek Ridge at this location, and less than 2 miles later, an interchange with Paul Huff Parkway, a major thoroughfare along the northern part of Cleveland. The interstate then leaves Cleveland, and enters rural northern Bradley County, running northeast. Beginning at this point and continuing for nearly 60 miles, I-75 is very straight and flat, with few curves. Nearly the entirety of this section also contains an extremely wide median, mostly separated by trees. In some locations, the north and southbound lanes are as much as a half mile apart.
About twelve miles north of the central business district of Cleveland, I-75 curves to the northeast, and crosses the Hiwassee River into McMinn County, and then curves back to the northwest. This area is extremely susceptible to fog hazards, which obscures the visibility of drivers, and several bad accidents have occurred on this section as a result. Running through mostly wooded and agricultural areas, I-75 reaches Athens about 15 miles later, and has an interchange with SR 30, a major east-west corridor in East Tennessee. Running through northern McMinn County, the interstate passes near several unincorporated communities, and has interchanges with several secondary state highways. Around mile marker 58, I-75 enters Monroe County, and a few miles later passes near the town of Sweetwater, containing an interchange with SR 68, another major primary state highway. A few miles later, I-75 crosses into Loudon County. At exit 72 is an interchange with SR 72, which connects to Loudon, and a few miles later, the highway crosses the Tennessee River on the Mitchell W. Stout Memorial Bridges. I-75 then enters a predominantly commercial and residential area, and has an interchange with US 321 and SR 95 in Lenoir City. These routes also connect to Oak Ridge and Maryville. Curving slightly to the west and then again to the east, I-75 reaches an interchange with I-40 westbound about three miles later, where it begins a concurrency with I-40. About 20 miles west southwest of Knoxville, the concurrent routes widen to six lanes and cross into Knox County less than a mile later.
Running approximately east northeast the two interstates pass through the western suburbs of Knoxville including Farragut and West Knoxville. Along this concurrency exits are numbered according to I-40 mileage. At exit 374 is an interchange with SR 131 (Lovell Road), where the highway widens to eight lanes, and less than two miles later is a four way interchange with the Pellissippi Parkway (SR 162 westbound, I-140 eastbound), which connects to Oak Ridge to the west and Maryville to the east. At exit 380 is an interchange with US 11/70 (Kingston Pike), which connects to the West Hills neighborhood and West Town Mall. About 5 miles later, at an interchange with the western terminus of I-640, the northern bypass around downtown Knoxville, I-75 splits north off of I-40 and onto a concurrency with I-640. Along this concurrency, exits are numbered according to I-640 mileage. Heading north, the interstates come to an interchange with SR 62 (Western Avenue) about a mile later. About 1.5 miles later is a complicated interchange with I-275 southbound, the former route of I-75, and US 25W, where I-75 splits off.
Clinch River Valley and Cumberland MountainsEdit
Leaving Knoxville, I-75 turns north, crossing several paralleling ridges of the Ridge and Valley Appalachians. The terrain for the next 20 miles (32 km) of I-75 north of Knoxville are mostly flat. At exit 112 in Powell, I-75 once again has an interchange with SR 131, and the Interstate narrows from six to four lanes. Entering a rural area, I-75 runs along a creek valley for the next several miles that bisects several ridges in a crooked and hazardous segment marked by several S-curves. Maintaining its north-northwesterly direction, I-75 crosses into Anderson County. Beyond this section, the Cumberland Mountains become visible in the distance. At exit 122 the Interstate has an interchange with SR 61 near Clinton. I-75 then descends sharply into the Clinch River Gorge, and crosses the Clinch River a few miles later. About four miles (6.4 km) later, near the community of Rocky Top, I-75 has interchanges with US 441, and US 25W, running concurrently with the latter. The Interstate then crosses into Campbell County.
For approximately the last 30 miles (48 km) in Tennessee, I-75 traverses the Cumberland Mountains. This entire section is considered very scenic and is prone to rockslides in many locations. Around milepost 130, I-75 begins its first major ascent, crossing two railroads, and at exit 134, near the community of Caryville, US 25W splits off and I-75 begins a concurrency with SR 63. The Interstate then begins another ascent, and adds a truck climbing lane going northbound. About six miles (9.7 km) later, the route levels out and the truck lane terminates, and less than a mile later, at exit 141, SR 63 splits off near the unincorporated community of Pioneer. Traveling through a further sparsely populated rural area marked by dense woodlands, I-75 remains relatively flat for a few miles before beginning its ascent over Jellico Mountain and once again adds a truck climbing lane. I-75 then curves sharply to the northeast and about a mile later, reaches the top of Jellico Mountain at an elevation of over 2,000 feet (610 m), where the truck lane ends. For roughly the next eight miles (13 km), I-75 runs along the crest of Jellico Mountain, with several minor ups and downs, before remaining relatively flat again. About four miles (6.4 km) later, the Interstate levels out on top of Jellico Mountain and has an interchange with US 25W in the city of Jellico. Less than a mile later, I-75 enters the hilly terrains of eastern Kentucky.
Construction of I-75 in Tennessee began in 1958 with short segments in Chattanooga and Knoxville. The route was completed through Chattanooga on July 17, 1963, with the completion of the 6.6 miles (10.6 km) segment between the split with I-24 and US 11/64 (Bonny Oaks Drive). I-75 was completed through Knoxville in late 1965. The section between Ooltewah and SR 60 in Cleveland opened on October 18, 1966. Like much of the interstate system in rural Tennessee, priority was generally given to completing rural segments in Middle and West Tennessee over East Tennessee, but the last approximately 35 miles (56 km) segment of I-75 in Tennessee, located mostly in Campbell County, was constructed much earlier than most of the rural segments in Tennessee, reportedly due to the influence of then-Congressman and later U.S. Senator Howard Baker Jr., who was from that area. By 1963, the 1 mile (1.6 km) section between US 25W in Jellico and the Kentucky state line was open to traffic. The 6.8 mile segment between US 25W in Caryville and US 441 in Anderson County was completed in October 1964. Portions of this segment predated the interstate system.
As construction progressed, many disputes with right-of-way acquisition arose in multiple locations, which delayed the project. The section between SR 60 and SR 308 in Bradley County began construction in 1968, but was stalled shortly thereafter. Construction resumed in 1972, and the segment was opened to traffic on January 23, 1973. The section between US 25W north of Knoxville and SR 61 in Clinton broke ground in segments, beginning in August 1968, and was opened to traffic on August 1, 1972. The approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) segment between SR 61 and US 441 in Anderson County was completed in September 1973. The section of the highway between SR 308 near Charleston and SR 30 in Athens opened on December 24, 1973, and was completed the following spring. The last section of I-75 in Tennessee, approximately 32 miles (51 km) between SR 30 in Athens and US 321/SR 95 in Lenoir City, was opened to traffic on December 20, 1974, in a ceremony officiated by then-governor Winfield Dunn. The last section of I-40 in Tennessee was opened on this same day.
I-75 originally continued into downtown Knoxville then turned to the north at Malfunction Junction, following what is now signed as I-275. When the western section of I-640 was completed in 1982, I-75 was moved to overlap the auxiliary route to divert through traffic away from downtown in preparation for the 1982 World's Fair. This concurrency is somewhat unusual in that the exit numbers and mile markers follow the auxiliary route I-640 instead of I-75 mileage.
An approximately five mile section of I-75 in northern Bradley and southern McMinn Counties, including the bridge over the Hiwassee River is prone to hazards from dense fog in the morning, which can severely obscure the visibility of drivers. This segment is located near several heavy industries including the Resolute Forest Products paper mill, formerly Bowater, which operates settling ponds along the interstate. This segment has been the site of several serious multivehicle accidents, the first of which occurred on March 9, 1974, less than three months after the section opened to traffic, and before it had been declared complete. This accident involved 18 vehicles, and killed three and injured 10. A total of six multivehicle accidents occurred along this stretch in the 1970s. The worst, which took place on November 5, 1978, involved 62 vehicles and injured 46, and took place on the Hiwassee River Bridge. After a multivehicle accident on April 15, 1979 which involved 18 vehicles, killed three, and injured 14, TDOT identified the stretch as prone to fog hazards, and agreed to install warning signs with flashing warning lights, which would activate if fog was detected. After this, no serious fog related accidents occurred for more than 11 years.
On December 11, 1990, a 99 vehicle accident occurred in this same area that resulted in 12 deaths and 56 injuries. This accident was considered unusual, due to the density and sudden appearance of the fog, and initial speculation arose about the possibility of the role of water vapor. Extensive investigations followed, and some meteorological experts believe that the fog may have been caused by an unusual phenomenon known as a temperature inversion. Several lawsuits were filed against Bowater, alleging that they had contributed to the fog with their water vapor emissions. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee in January 1979 had concluded that Bowater's settling ponds were possible contributors to fog in the area. Several lawsuits were also filed against the state of Tennessee, which claimed that TDOT had failed to install adequate warning systems along this stretch of I-75, a position that Bowater also took. The existing fog warning lights were reportedly not working on this day. After settling with the family members of accident victims and survivors in court, TDOT instituted several safety measures along this stretch of highway, including re-striping the roadway with extra markings to make it more visible and installing a computerized fog detection system, which contains a warning system with flashing lights, electronic signs, variable speed limits, and electronic controlled swing gates which block access to the interstate from six entrance ramps in and near this stretch in the event of dense fog. Between mileposts 31 and 39, the highway is designated as a fog advisory zone. A $5.5 million upgrade was completed to this system in 1993, and in 2006, a $6.6 million upgrade was completed which installed video cameras. Bowater also agreed to limit the use of their settling pond closest to the interstate. The accident was profiled in a 1997 episode of the show Forensic Files.
The entire section of I-75 in Tennessee north of Knoxville has been subject to many geological difficulties, particularly the last 30 miles through the Cumberland Mountains.
In March 2005, the southbound lanes of Interstate 75 were shut down between mile marker 141 to 143 due to a rockslide below the roadway that caused the pavement to partially collapse.
In March 2012, the southbound lanes of the interstate were again closed to traffic between mile markers 141 and 143 in Campbell County, Tennessee due to a slide beneath the roadway. This was later followed by a second slide in early May 2012 that caused a portion of the southbound lanes to completely erode and forced the detour lanes to be closed.
In February 2016, a rock slide closed I-75 near Caryville, Tennessee.
On March 28, 1994, a runaway barge that had broken loose from its mooring due to flooding struck the I-75 bridge over the Tennessee River, along with the US 11 bridge and a railroad bridge. The collision broke loose a chunk of concrete from a post, but engineers determined that it caused no major structural damage. I-75 had been closed to traffic on this section in preparation for the collision.
On April 1, 2019, part of the bridge on I-75 southbound over the ramp from I-24 westbound to I-75 northbound at the split in Chattanooga collapsed, injuring one person and blocking traffic for hours. The bridge, built in 1959, is one of the oldest on I-75 in Tennessee, and the interchange is the site of frequent accidents. TDOT's chief engineer said that the collapse was most likely caused by weakening of the bridge's rail that occurred when an illegally oversized load hit the bridge.
Throughout its history I-75 has seen many reconstruction and widening projects in Tennessee.
The first major reconstruction project was a widening of the concurrent segment of I-75 and I-40 from four to six lanes between the interchange near Lenoir City and Downtown Knoxville, which began in the late 1970s. In the latter 1980s, I-75/I-40 was widened from six to eight lanes between the Pellissippi Parkway and Papermill Road, and multiple interchanges along this segment were reconstructed. These segments have since seen more improvements.
I-75 was widened from four to six and eight lanes in Chattanooga between the interchange with I-24 and SR 153 in the late 1980s. Between 1998 and 2010 a series of projects reconstructed and widened I-75 between SR 153 and north of US 11/64 in Ooltewah. The first of these projects, which began in late 1998 and was completed in 2001, rebuilt the interchange with SR 153, changing the approach of two flyover ramps that connect to I-75 northbound from the left to the right side of the road. This project also modified the interchange with SR 320, removing two cloverleaf loop ramps from I-75 southbound, and moving the access to the entrance ramp from I-75 southbound to a point near the interchange with SR 153. The next project, which widened I-75 further between mileposts 6 and 9 and improved the interchange with SR 317, was completed in November 2005. A new interchange was constructed in 2006 to provide access to the Enterprise South Industrial Park, which at that time was in the process of redevelopment. This interchange, which became exit 9, now provides access to the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant, and was not opened until 2010. A segment of SR 317 was later routed onto a concurrency of I-75 between exit 11 and this interchange. Exit 9 was designated as the Bredesen-Ramsey Interchange in 2015 in honor of the efforts of then-governor Phil Bredesen and county mayor Claude Ramsey to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga. The last of these projects, which began on November 8, 2007, widened I-75 from approximately milepost 10 to milepost 13, just north of the interchange of US 11/64, and included reconstruction of this interchange, including the addition of a loop ramp, and improvements on this road. This project was completed on August 12, 2010, four months ahead of schedule. Future plans include widening I-75 further north.
On May 1, 2008 I-75 northbound traffic was re-routed back along its original path in downtown Knoxville along Interstate 275 as part of SmartFix 40, a major construction project that includes closing a portion of I-40. Traffic was re-routed along I-275 as the ramp from I-640 eastbound/I-75 northbound to I-75 northbound is only one lane which causes traffic delays at peak times.
|Hamilton||East Ridge||0.00||0.00||I-75 south (SR 401) – Atlanta||Georgia state line|
|0.32||0.51||1||US 41 (US 76 / SR 8) – East Ridge||Signed as exits 1A (south) and 1B (north) northbound|
|Chattanooga||1.44||2.32||2||I-24 west to I-59 south – Chattanooga, Nashville, Birmingham||South end of US 74 concurrency, left exit northbound; I-24 exits 185A-B; eastern terminus of I-24; directional T interchange.|
|3.51||5.65||3||SR 320 (East Brainerd Road)||Signed as exits 3A (east) and 3B (west) northbound|
|4.24||6.82||4A||SR 153 north – Chattanooga Airport, Chickamauga Dam|
|5.10||8.21||4B||Hamilton Place Boulevard||Northbound exit and southbound entrance; access to Hamilton Place Mall|
|6.50||10.46||Standifer Gap Road||Removed c. 1970|
|7.53||12.12||7||US 11 south / US 64 west (Old Lee Highway / SR 2 west) / SR 317 west (Bonny Oaks Drive) – Summit, Collegedale||South end of US 11/US 64/SR 2 concurrency; signed as exits 7A (SR 317 east) and 7B (SR 317 west) northbound|
|9.05||14.56||9||SR 317 (Apison Pike) – Ooltewah, Collegedale / Volkswagen Drive||Serves Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant|
|11.66||18.76||11||US 11 north / US 64 east (SR 2 east) – Ooltewah, Collegedale||North end of US 11/US 64/SR 2 concurrency|
US 64 Byp. east (US 74 east / SR 311) – Cleveland
|North end of US 74 concurrency|
|25.05||40.31||25||SR 60 – Cleveland, Dayton|
|26.80||43.13||27||Paul Huff Parkway – Cleveland|
|||32.83||52.83||33||SR 308 – Charleston|
|McMinn||||36.09||58.08||36||SR 163 – Calhoun|
|||42.31||68.09||42||SR 39 (Riceville Road) – Riceville|
|Athens||48.79||78.52||49||SR 30 – Decatur, Athens|
|||52.17||83.96||52||SR 305 (Mount Verd Road) – Athens|
|||56.13||90.33||56||SR 309 – Niota|
|Monroe||Sweetwater||60.61||97.54||60||SR 68 – Spring City, Sweetwater|
|62.78||101.03||62||SR 322 (Oakland Road) – Sweetwater|
|Loudon||||68.76||110.66||68||SR 323 – Philadelphia|
|Loudon||72.15||116.11||72||SR 72 – Loudon|
|||76.69||123.42||76||SR 324 (Sugar Limb Road)|
|Lenoir City||81.48||131.13||81||US 321 (SR 73) to SR 95 – Oak Ridge, Lenoir City, Maryville|
|||84.64||136.21||84B||I-40 west – Nashville||South end of I-40 concurrency; no exit number southbound; concurrency uses I-40 exit numbers; I-40 exit 368 westbound|
|89.63||144.25||373||Campbell Station Road – Farragut|
|Knoxville||91.39||147.08||374||SR 131 (Lovell Road)|
|92.74||149.25||376||I-140 east / SR 162 north – Oak Ridge, Maryville||Signed as exits 376A (north) and 376B (east) on collector/distributor lanes; I-140 exits 1C-D westbound|
|94.54||152.15||378||Cedar Bluff Road||Signed as exits 378A (south) and 378B (north) southbound; southbound exit 378B also serves Executive Park Drive|
|379||Bridgewater Road, Walker Springs Road, Gallaher View Road||Signed as exits 379 (Bridgewater Road, Walker Springs Road) and 379A (Gallaher View Road) southbound|
|97.32||156.62||380||US 11 / US 70 (Kingston Pike / SR 1) – West Hills, West Town Mall||Also access to Montvue Road|
|383||SR 332 (Northshore Drive / Papermill Road) / Weisgarber Road||Complete access to Northshore Drive and Papermill Road; southbound exit and entrance only for Weisgarber Road; Northshore Drive signed northbound only|
|101.89||163.98||385||I-40 east / I-640 west – Knoxville||North end of I-40 concurrency; south end of I-640 concurrency; concurrency uses I-640 exit numbers|
|103.10||165.92||1||SR 62 (Western Avenue)||Northbound split into separate unnumbered exits for eastbound and westbound exits on collector/distributor lanes|
|104.74||168.56||3B||US 25W north (SR 9 north) / Gap Road – Clinton||Northbound exit only|
|105.22||169.34||3||I-640 east (US 25W south / SR 9 south) – Asheville||North end of I-640 concurrency; no exit number northbound; no exits from I-75 to US 25W northbound|
|105.42||169.66||3||I-275 south – Knoxville||No exit number southbound|
|106.35||171.15||108||Merchants Drive||Southbound access to northbound US 25W|
|109.82||176.74||112||SR 131 (Emory Road) – Powell|
|||114.65||184.51||117||SR 170 (Raccoon Valley Road)|
|Anderson||||120.12||193.31||122||SR 61 – Clinton, Norris|
|Rocky Top||125.97||202.73||128||US 441 (SR 71) – Rocky Top|
|126.64||203.81||129||US 25W south (SR 9 south / SR 116) – Rocky Top||South end of US 25W/SR 9 concurrency|
|Campbell||Caryville||132.32||212.95||134||US 25W north / SR 63 east (SR 9 north) – Caryville, Jacksboro, LaFollette||North end of US 25W/SR 9 concurrency; south end of SR 63 concurrency|
|138.70||223.22||141||SR 63 west – Huntsville, Oneida||North end of SR 63 concurrency|
|||142.21||228.86||144||Stinking Creek Road|
|||153.61||247.21||156||Rarity Mountain Road|
|Jellico||158.14||254.50||160||US 25W (SR 9) – Jellico|
|159.08||256.01||I-75 north – Lexington||Kentucky state line|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
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- "Bridge collapses on I-75 in Chattanooga; roadways still blocked hours later". Atlanta: WSB-TV. April 1, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- "Part of I-75 bridge collapses onto road in Chattanooga, TN". Newport, Kentucky: WXIX-TV. April 1, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- Pace, Mark (April 3, 2019). "Here's what likely caused the railing to collapse on the I-75 bridge in Chattanooga". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
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- Tennessee Department of Transportation (1986). I-40, I-75 and Interchanges Improvements, Knoxville: Environmental Impact Statement. Nashville: Tennessee Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 26, 2019 – via Google Books.[page needed]
- "TDOT Region 2 Weekly Construction Report". Chattanoogan.com. November 23, 2005. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
- Flessner, Dave (July 19, 2008). "Chattanooga: Making connections for Volkswagen plant site". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011.
- "Rep. McCormick To Unveil Road Signs Honoring Phil Bredesen, Claude Ramsey". The Chattanoogan. October 27, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
- Carroll, Chris (June 27, 2010). "Ooltewah I-75 work lingers, but end is near". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
- Flynn, Jennifer (August 13, 2010). "I-75 Widening Project in Hamilton County Completed Ahead of Schedule". TDOT News (Press release). Nashville: Tennessee Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
- Flynn, Jennifer A. (June 29, 2010). "New Loop Ramp Open to Traffic at Exit 11 in Hamilton County". TDOT News (Press release). Nashville: Tennessee Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
- Bowers, Larry C. (July 13, 2017). "Roadway projects include widening of I-75". Cleveland Daily Banner. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
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