Kelly Alley

With spring break behind us and summer break looming just a short month ahead, I reckon it’s time to talk about traveling. 

Everyone knows the best way to travel is by car, especially if you really want to see America at her most beautiful and unique. This means you’ll be pounding quite a lot of pavement to reach your destination, which can be a real pain in the asphalt sometimes.

Forgetting the whiplash that comes from dodging potholes, there is a euphoric peace that comes from driving. Take any rural backroad or late-night ramble and you’ll discover a world unlike any you’ve known before. Heck, just thinking of cruising with the windows down between freshly-cut sweet smelling fields in the summer twilight gives me goosebumps.

Typically, though, you don’t get this experience on family road trips or jalopy jaunts with friends. Usually you’re stuck mindlessly rolling between the concrete barriers of the interstate, with only the occasional few miles of road work or routine traffic stop to offer excitement.

There is something nice to be said about Eisenhower’s late-50s travel scheme though. Thankfully, aside from gaping holes in the most used lanes, our interstate system has vastly improved. Hard to believe, maybe, but let’s take a look at a few spots around Knoxville that actually changed for the better.

Back before the World’s Fair came to Knoxville in 1982, a prominent interstate junction near downtown was famous for the traffic snarls it caused. This junction, commonly referred to as “Malfunction Junction,” was where I-40 and I-75 meet – only there weren’t any handy overpasses back then. There was even talk of keeping the World’s Fair out of Knoxville because of this wacky interstate intersection.

As a North Knox-to-Downtown commuter myself, I shudder to imagine what it must have been like to make my daily drive through that area before it changed.

Another interesting interstate conundrum revolves around the Coster Shop bridge, a section of I-275 just north of Downtown. Named after the Southern Railway train repair shop, it curves around where the yard once stood – in its place today is an industrial park.

Now, I don’t see much harm in making the interstate swing around a prominent building like that, especially when it was there first. My issue comes with the sharp curve it has in order to skirt around that area.

When it’s dry out­­, that little curve isn’t too bad to drive, even if you’re going five or ten miles per hour over the speed limit. The problem comes when it’s wet. It’s a tricky curve, because you don’t think it’s banked as much as it is, and it gets awfully slick when it rains. I’ve seen folks heading south take that turn too fast in drizzly weather only to find themselves upside down a few seconds later.

Going north on that curve isn’t much better; the banking is off in the left-most lane and tends to puddle up pretty badly during heavy downpours.

Sure, today we can complain about the slow 5 o’clock traffic from Downtown to West Knoxville, but at least the traffic still moves. At least we’re not commuting through Bakersfield, California or Houston, Texas.

Keep your mind clear and your eyes on the road ahead.

Kelly Alley is a junior studying Journalism and Electronic Media. She can be reached at kalley2@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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