Interstate 240 south of the U.S. 51-64-70-72-79 (Crump Boulevard) overpass at Midtown Memphis. 06/01/10
Interstate 240 in Tennessee runs along the southern two thirds of the 31.9-mile long Memphis beltway. The northern third is designated as Interstate 40. The western leg of I-240 from Downtown to Southside, Memphis doubles as Interstate 69, through the route is not marked. The remainder of the urban loop provides a bypass between I-55/69 near Whitehaven and I-40 between East Memphis and Bartlett. I-240 in conjunction with SR 385 (Bill Morris Parkway), is also a commuter route for residents of Germantown, Hickory Hill and Parkway Village.
When the eastern terminus interchange of Interstate 240 opened in 1964, I-40 was to continue west along Sam Cooper Boulevard, while I-240 was to serve as the bypass loop of the city.1 Litigation involving the construction of Interstate 40 across Overton City Park in 1971 resulted in the cancellation of the route across the Med District, Evergreen and Midtown. The freeway east from Highland Heights to Berclair and I-40 was completed prior to the Supreme Court decision in favor of the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park law suit.2
Interstate 40 was subsequently rerouted to overlap with I-240 along the northern Memphis beltline between Uptown and Raleigh. I-240 was eventually dropped from the concurrency as approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on June 28, 1982. The former I-40/240 overlap was one of handful in the Interstate Highway System where a 2-digit route overlapped with its branch route. Others included I-40/440 around Raleigh, North Carolina (dropped by 2009), I-95/495 around Washington, D.C. and I-94/694 to the northwest of St. Paul, Minnesota.
The southwestern section of I-240 between I-40 near Downtown and I-55 by Alcy-Dunn was previously designated as Interstate 255. This changed on November 10, 1973, when AASHTO approved the renumbering of I-255 as a northwestern extension of I-240.
Construction at the west end of I-240 included the removal of unused ramps intended for the Interstate 40 alignment to Sam Cooper Boulevard. The $53-million, three-year project rebuilding the I-40/240 exchange at Midtown, Memphis wrapped up by mid December 2006. Work added a lane in each direction to both I-40 and I-240 and doubled capacity of the ramp connections. 19 bridges were removed in the project and seven were replaced.4
Looking at the former unopened ramps at the exchange joining I-40/240 near Midtown, Memphis. This view looked southwest from the ramp built for unconstructed I-40 west to I-240 south. The loop ramp below carried motorists from I-240 north to I-40 west while the adjacent overpass represented the eastbound mainline of Interstate 40.
This exchange was rebuilt between 2003 and 2006 into a high-speed directional T interchange. Photo by Zach (07/18/03).
Looking east from White Station Road at the steel frame work for the flyover carrying I-40 west to I-240 during Phase I construction. Photo by Don Johnson (06/02).
The I-40/I-240 Phase II Interchange Project was previously scheduled between January 2004 and December 2006. Funding delays pushed work back to 2013, when construction of the east and westbound flyover bridges commenced. The new ramps, which carry the Interstate 40 mainline above I-240 and Sam Cooper Boulevard, were completed by Fall 2015. Replacement of the I-40 bridges across the Wolf River and associated widening rounded out project work by Summer 2017.
Interstate 69 was extended northward from Hernando, Mississippi to Midtown, Memphis on May 6, 2008. The route overlaps with I-55 north to Interstate 240, along side I-240 north to Interstate 40, and on I-40 to a three-wye interchange (Exit 2A) with SR 300 near Frayser. Signs erected within the Volunteer State only reference the route as a Future corridor.