Here’s an email we received from reader Kimble Johnson (we welcome your submissions):
I’ve only recently discovered your blog, but am really enjoying the variety of topics and perspectives on issues the cities, and particularly those Memphis faces. I’d love to read your thoughts on the I-240 corridor between Jackson Ave and South Parkway. I’ve catalogued the exits and there are very few that are complete (I’m sure there’s an industry term, but I don’t know it) – meaning you can enter and exit from both North and South from the interstate and go in either direction on the city artery, and go in either direction onto the interstate from the city artery. Most of those exits that do exist are older, and so initially I would have just put it down to an evolution in guiding principals behind interstate design and assume that there was a time when engineers and planners thought is better to bypass easy access to major areas, but really that doesn’t make sense. Here are a few examples of the inefficiency and seeming disregard for how this corridor works with our local commercial and residential traffic:
A friend that lives off Jackson pointed out that when she gets onto 240 from Jackson she can’t access the ramp that exits onto I40 west in order to head across the river to Arkansas (though I consider Jackson basically a complete exit, clearly even this one has a major flaw). That’s just nuts – Jackson is far enough from that I-40 exit that those residents should have access to the I-40 ramp – my gosh, this is basically a brand new build! And if you know midtown, where else are the Evergreen, V& E and other neighborhood residents going to enter I-240in order to head west on I40? Moreover, why in the world should they have to think that hard when a brand new exit was just built. It’s a like a bad joke.
In further examples, I can’t understand why the ramp from Lamar going North on 240 is isolated from the interstate for so long that you cannot exit onto Union, in fact the driver still hasn’t merged with the interstate traffic at this point. The next exit available for this driver would be Jackson ave. In the process you’ve bypassed Eastmoreland, Peabody, Union, Madison, Jefferson, Poplar and N Parkway. I’d think a fully functioning ramp near Methodist would be a boon to the area and particularly the neighborhoods and schools that currently have to deal with speeding emergency vehicles that are zipping down Cleveland to get to Lamar/Bellevue/240. The same could be said for Poplar or N Parkway and the hospitals on those arteries, but any complete exit on this stretch of interstate would be an improvement. Just one or complete two exits in this prime area would make a world of difference to the residents and commercial traffic in our city. As a logistics hub it’s just baffling that we haven’t improved this interstate.
The Midtown/Med Dist stretch of 240 bisects major residential areas and UT Med and our hospital district. I-240 could be used well as a North South corridor for local traffic if there were several complete exits in this urban core area. Because there aren’t exits and there are few N/S arteries to choose from, people use Cleveland and tend to speed in the process. But Cleveland runs through both commercial and residential property and I can tell you first hand the amount of traffic leads to a lot of fender benders (which in turn effect our emergency responders). To document, I have a small photo album of wrecks near my home on Cleveland. I’m not sure what the hold up is on improving the interstate, or if it’s just not on the radar. There’s land to enhance these exits, in fact some of the areas between 240 and Cleveland would be much improved if there was a smartly designed complete exit instead of the urban blight that exists there now.
My last bone to pick with the poor decisions/priorities on this integral stretch of interstate is the lack of sound barriers/privacy walls/safety walls (whatever they are called). The difference between the tall, reasonably attractive and very effective interstate walls going up in the Germantown area and the pitiful chain link fences in the Midtown/Med district stretch of 240 is absurd. There are incredible historical districts in sight of the interstate and those neighborhoods would have a better chance of thriving if such walls were in place, as seen in most other older urban districts in successfully renewed areas like Nashville’s Hillsboro village (which 440 bisected) etc.
Last year I wrote Congressman Cohen who replied that this is state level funding. I think leaders, residents and businesses would be happy to get behind a redesign of this area, and hope that our engineers and other departments involved have a broad enough vision to tackle the needed improvements. I’d love to read your thoughts in a series on this challenge.