published Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I-40 challenge: Tennessee state troopers to step up Thanksgiving holiday enforcement

Tennessee Highway Patrol officer Ben Harrison climbs up the cab of a semi-trailer after pulling the driver over for a speeding violation Monday along Interstate 24 west of Chattanooga.
Tennessee Highway Patrol officer Ben Harrison climbs up the cab of a semi-trailer after pulling the driver over for a speeding violation Monday along Interstate 24 west of Chattanooga.
Photo by Doug Strickland.


I-40 stretches 2,554 miles across the U.S. The I-40 bridges over the Mississippi River in Memphis, between Tennessee and Arkansas, were completed in October 1973.

The bridges are now the target of $150 million in work to enable them to withstand a magnitude 7.0 earthquake and still remain serviceable. Memphis is home to the largest “missing segment” of the interstate, because of a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision in support of a lawsuit filed by the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park to prevent the highway from passing through that park. The suit resulted in the creation of the I-240 loop.

Parts of I-40 that were already started are now used as Sam Cooper Boulevard, according to Tennessee Department of Safety histories. In Western states, I-40 traces much the same path as the famous Route 66.

Source: Tennessee Department of Safety

  • photo
    Tennessee Highway Patrol officer Ben Harrison radios another trooper from his cruiser Monday along Interstate 24 west of Chattanooga.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo


2013 fatalities in the 12 counties of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Chattanooga District as of Monday, Nov. 25, 2013.

County / 2012 / 2013 / Change

• Bledsoe / 4 / 0 / -4

• Bradley / 18 / 6 / -12

• Coffee / 12 / 9 / -3

• Franklin / 11 / 7 / -4

• Grundy / 4 / 9 / +5

• Hamilton / 27 / 33 / +6

• Marion / 8 / 6 / -2

• McMinn / 13 / 7 / -6

• Meigs / 7 / 6 / -1

• Polk / 7 / 5 / -2

• Rhea / 7 / 3 / -4

• Sequatchie / 2 / 1 / -1

2013 District Totals

District / '12 / '13 / Change

• Chattanooga District / 120 / 92 / -28

• Knoxville District / 141 / 141 / 0

• Nashville District / 183 / 184 / +1

• Memphis District / 132 / 146 / +14

• Fall Branch District / 120 / 117 / -3

• Cookeville District / 79 / 70 / -9

• Lawrenceburg District / 49 / 70 / +21

• Jackson District / 84 / 74 / -10

• Tennessee / 908 / 894 / -14

Source: Tennessee Department of Safety, Office of Research, Statistics and Analysis

LOOKOUT VALLEY — The Chattanooga region’s interstates and major U.S. and state highways will be flooded with state troopers and safety messages over the Thanksgiving holiday under a state and national effort to minimize traffic fatalities.

In the national traffic campaign called the “I-40 Challenge: The Drive Toward Zero Fatalities” announced Monday in Nashville, motorists will see state troopers posted every 20 miles from the mountains and plateaus of North Carolina and Tennessee to Arizona and California along Interstate 40. The challenge targets the two busiest 12-hour travel periods, noon until midnight on Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

While Southeast Tennessee doesn’t have a piece of I-40, troopers in this area will be performing the same mission on interstates 75 and 24 and on U.S. Highway 27 and Tennessee Highway 111 in hopes of maintaining a reduction in traffic deaths over last year, according to Lt. John Harmon of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Chattanooga District. As of late Monday, the Chattanooga District was 28 fatalities below last year’s mark to date of 120, statistics show.

“It’ll be the biggest enforcement and education campaign during the Thanksgiving holiday in recent memory,” Harmon said.

Troopers want to prevent disasters like the bus crash on I-40 in Jefferson County, Tenn., that claimed six lives and injured 12 others on Oct. 2. And with forecasts of winter weather in many parts of the state and region, safety should be at the top of the list for holiday travelers.

“We’re utilizing the 36 message boards,” Harmon said. The sign campaign is a joint effort of THP and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which operates most of the electronic overhead billboards.

The message boards — the portables and the overhead signs — will provide messages such as “Buckle Up,” “Arrive Alive,” “Don’t Text and Drive” and “Don’t Drink and Drive” and will give traffic fatality statistics, the lieutenant said. Portable signs will warn of an increased trooper presence and give similar safety messages.

Besides watching traffic, troopers will man the state’s 18 rest areas on Wednesday to give directions, hand out safety literature and offer checks on child seat installations, Harmon said. Officials said TDOT’s bright green HELP trucks also will be on patrol to help stranded motorists.

The challenge was issued Monday by Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and THP Col. Tracy Trott. Participating agencies include the California Highway Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police, Texas Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Arkansas State Police and North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Interstate 40 runs more than 2,550 miles through eight states, from Barstow, Calif., to Wilmington, N.C. Tennessee has 455 miles of I-40 through 20 counties.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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