Originally envisioned as a full 187 mile long beltway around the metropolitan Nashville area, Interstate 840 connects I-40 near Dickson with I-40 near Lebanon. The beltway was proposed as a solution for regional traffic needs so that the existing Nashville freeways could better support local traffic. Similar to the outer beltway (Grand Parkway / SH 99) around Houston, I-840 forms a complete bypass of the metropolitan area, providing a through route for the movement of goods and services. Critics of the beltway contended that the new road would open up land for unchecked commercial and residential development.
Interstate designation for SR 840 was planned originally, but later withdrawn because funding was derived from Tennessee state sources such as gas and diesel taxes, license plate renewal fees and other highway user fees.1 The route was incorporated into then-governor Lamar Alexander’s 1986 “Bicentennial Parkway” road program.4 An application to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to upgrade the state route to Interstate 840, however, was approved on May 15, 2015.8
TDOT received final approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to officially designate all of SR 840 as I-840 in August 2016.6 The change in designation will allow further economic growth along the I-840 corridor and encourage more traffic diversion around the central Nashville area. Signage along the corridor was erected starting in mid August 2016. With a $230,000 price tag, sign conversion was to be completed by late 2016.6
TDOT announced that plans for SR 840 north of Interstate 40 were placed on hold indefinitely on October 31, 2003. Lawsuits and complaints from homeowners and environmental groups along the planned corridor, coupled with discussion involving the overall need for the route, led to the cancellation of the project at that time.2 No follow up work has taken place.
The origins of Tennessee State Route 840 date to 1975 with the recommendation for a beltway around Nashville in the 1975-79 Tennessee Highway System Plan.2 By 1986, the route became official under a proposal from Governor Lamar Alexander, and the subsequent approval by the state legislature. The route was also included in the Tennessee Better Roads Program. Planning commenced from there in 1988, culminating with actual construction by 1991. Newspaper reports at the time referred to the beltway as Interstate 840 rather than State Route 840.
In November 1991, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) requested that the proposed Interstate 840 be added to the Interstate Highway System. This request was submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in accordance with the provisions of 23 USC § 139(b). In January 1992, however, TDOT withdrew this request, and FHWA returned the Agreement for Interstate Highway Construction in the State of Tennessee without signing it. Interstate 840 then became “SR 840S.”3
Construction progressed on the southern and eastern thirds of the beltway in four stages:
- From Stewart’s Ferry Pike near Gladeville to Interstate 40 – open August 1995
- From Interstate 24 in Murfreesboro northeast to Stewart’s Ferry Pike – open November 1996
- From U.S. 31A and U.S. 41A near Triune in Williamson County to Interstate 24 – open November 2000
- From Interstate 65 south of Franklin to U.S. 31A/41A – open October 2001
The total length of State Route 840 expanded to 47 miles at that point.1,3
In 1993, the General Assembly indicated that TDOT may consider the northern component of the beltway. The department of transportation followed with the release of an environmental impact statement in 1995. By 2003, due to the overall anticipated high costs both economically and socially with the corridor, it was recommended that TDOT withdraw plans to begin work on the northern half of SR 840. Instead attention was to be redirected to the expansion of the existing roadway network north of the city and further study of the northern half of the beltway discontinued.2
The projected path of SR 840 north as envisioned by TDOT in 2003 included an overlap with I-40 in the vicinity of Lebanon. The southern half of the beltway was fully completed in 2012 while the northern half was canceled. The entire length of SR 840 was designated as Interstate 840 by August 2016.6