Interstate 81 Tennessee - South

Interstate 81 South
On August 5, 2003, Interstate 26 came into existence within the Volunteer State. A nine mile stretch of new freeway opened to traffic from Mars Hill, North Carolina to Sams Gap at the North Carolina and Tennessee state line 46 miles to the south. Coinciding with the opening of this new stretch of freeway was the redesignation of the southern half of Interstate 181 and all of the U.S. 23 freeway between Johnson City and Asheville as Interstate 26. Displayed here is the one-mile guide sign for the Exit 57B/A cloverleaf interchange with the new Interstate 26 and remnant Interstate 181 north. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Interstate 181 retained nine miles of its original 23.85 mile routing between Interstate 81 and Kingsport (pop. 44,905) for two years beyond the Interstate 26 arrival into Tennessee. On August 5, 2005, Interstate 181 north was renumbered as part of an extended Interstate 26. All references to Interstate 181 were removed by March 2007. The stretch of freeway remains U.S. 23 from Exit 1 (Old Exit 55) [U.S. 11W] and the Virginia state line. The City of Kingsport successfully lobbied AASHTO for the Interstate 26 extension after a failed proposal to renumber Interstate 181 as Interstate 126 during June of 2003. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Interstate 81 southbound at the Interstate 26 eastbound off-ramp (Exit 57A). Interstate 26 & U.S. 23 remain overlapped through to the North Carolina state line. The paired highways travel 13 miles southward to Johnson City (pop. 55,469) where they merge with U.S. 19W. Interstate 26 is part of a longer corridor between northeastern Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina, a distance of 347 miles. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Just south of Interstate 26 (Exit 57) is the Kendrick Creek Road interchange of Exit 56. Designated the Tri-Cities Crossing, Kendrick Creek Road links Interstate 81 with the Summersville and Summer Hill residential area north of the Interstate 26 & 81 junction. Photo taken 08/23/03.
U.S. 11E crosses paths with Interstate 81 at the Exit 23 diamond interchange near Mohawk Crossing. The U.S. highway travels between the communities of Greeneville (pop. 15,198), Mosheim (pop. 1,749), Bulls Gap (pop. 714), and Whitesburg within the vicinity of the freeway. Pictured here is a SCDOT style U.S. 11E shield assembly at the end of the Exit 23 southbound off-ramp. Photo taken 08/23/03.
The final of three Hamblen County exits for Interstate 81 is the folded cloverleaf interchange of U.S. 25E (Davy Crockett Parkway). U.S. 25E travels north-south between U.S. 70, 321, and 411 at Newport (pop. 7,242) through White Pine (pop. 1,997) to Interstate 81 near Morristown (pop. 24,965). Photo taken 08/23/03.
Situated within Jefferson County is the last mainline interchange of Interstate 81 (Exit 4). Tennessee 341 (White Pine Road) intersects the freeway here via a diamond interchange. The north-south roadway travels between White Pine and Talbott between U.S. 25E and U.S. 11E. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Two mile guide sign of Exit 1A/B (Interstate 40) on Interstate 81 southbound. Interstate 40 travels between metro Knoxville and the Great Smokey Mountains within the vicinity of Interstate 81. Before Interstate 26 opened the way between the Tri-Cities and Asheville, commercial truck traffic was relegated to take Interstate 81 southbound to Interstate 40 east to reach Interstate 26 and other portions of western North Carolina. Interstate 40 travels 80 miles to Asheville, North Carolina (pop. 68,889). Photo taken 08/23/03.
The mainline of Interstate 81 southbound defaults onto Interstate 40 west. 27 miles separate the Interstate 81 southern terminus with the city of Knoxville (pop. 173,890). The pervasiveness of the metropolitan area sees the expansion of Interstate 40 from four to six lanes between Interstate 640 (Exit 393) and Interstate 81 (Exit 421) in the late 1990s. Photo taken 08/23/03.

Page Updated November 18, 2007.

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