Tennessee Road Network

By | October 13, 2022

Tennessee has a dense network of roads, in addition to the freeways there are also many 2×2 divided highways. With larger cities in all parts of Tennessee, the state has an extensive road network. All larger cities have an urban network of freeways.

Road management

The highway network is operated by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, abbreviated TDOT. TDOT manages 22,340 kilometers of state highway, in which 8,291 bridges are located. The state manages 1,776 kilometers of Interstate Highway. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has its origins in the State Highway Commission of 1915. In 1972, the name was changed to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Tennessee is one of the few states that has not taken on any debt for road construction, with all spending coming from the Highway Fund which is funded by tax revenues and federal contributions.

  • Bittranslators: State overview of Tennessee, including geography, economy, population and history as well as introduction to major cities of Tennessee.

Interstate Highways

Tennessee’s Interstate Highway network.

I-24/65 in northern Nashville.

Tennessee is crisscrossed by eight major Interstate Highways, the most important of which is Interstate 40. This highway traverses the state from west to east for more than 700 miles, serving three of the four largest cities in the state, Memphis, Nashville, and Washington. Knoxville. Interstate 24 runs diagonally through the center of the state from Chattanooga through Nashville to Clarksville and is a major transportation route between the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. Interstate 26 forms a north-south route through the far east of the state, while Interstate 55 runs through the extreme southwest of the state, through Memphis, and is a critical north-south route from the Gulf of Mexico to St. Louis and Chicago.

Interstate 65 traverses central Tennessee from north to south, passing through Nashville. This is an important transport route for industry. Interstate 69 is a developing north-south route through the far west of the state, parallel to the Mississippi River. Interstate 75 is the main north-south route of eastern Tennesee, traveling north from Chattanooga through Knoxville. Interstate 81 branches off I -40 at Dandridge and heads northeast and is a major truck corridor to the northeastern United States.

Several auxiliary routes of Interstate Highways run around the larger cities. Interstate 140 is a spur in Knoxville while Interstate 155 connects across the Mississippi River from Dyersburg to Missouri. Interstate 240 forms the Memphis ring road, while Interstate 269 forms an eastern Memphis ring road that may form a full second ring road around the city in the future. Interstate 275 is a short connection in Knoxville, and Interstate 440 forms a half-ring around downtown Nashville. Interstate 640 forms Knoxville’s northern bypass. The Interstate 840 forms a half ring road around the Nashville area.

  • Deluxesurveillance: Nickname of Tennessee as The Volunteer State. Also covers geography, history, economy, politics and administration of the state.

US Highways

A large number of US Highways traverse Tennessee, mainly north-south routes. Most have a somewhat more secondary importance because the Interstate Highways handle the through traffic. US 45 and US 51 are north-south routes in the western part of the state that are predominantly 2×2 lanes. In addition, US 45 north of Jackson split into US 45E and US 45W. A similar split exists at US 11, US 19, US 25 and US 31. Tennessee and Kentucky are one of the few states where there are still so many splits of US Highways. The US 70 also has a southern branch east of Nashville, US 70S. In addition, some US Highways also have alternate routes.

State Routes

Tennessee has an extensive network of state routes, which is divided into primary and secondary routes, each of which has its own road number shield. Many state routes are not signposted because they coincide with a US Highway. There is no clear numbering system and only a limited number of state routes have an important function due to the dense network of US Highways in the state. The roads are legally referred to as a ‘state highway’, but are established as a ‘state route’. Since 1982, the state routes have been divided into primary and secondary routes. One of the most important state routes is State Route 111 which forms part of a freeway near Chattanooga and Cookeville. In addition, there are a number of state routes that are briefly freeway in urban areas, such as State Route 153 in Chattanooga, State Route 155 in Nashville, State Route 158 in Knoxville, State Route 385 in Memphis, and State Route 386 northeast of Nashville. One freeway has no number, the Sam Cooper Boulevard in eastern Memphis that was once planned as part of I-40.

Toll roads

Tennessee has no toll roads, but has had one in the past. There are no concrete plans for new toll roads in the state. Before the motorized era there were so-called turnpikes. These were the first modern roads in Tennessee, especially in the 1830-1850 period, toll roads were built. After the 1850s, toll roads became unpopular, and in 1899 the state gave the counties permission to buy toll roads and make them toll-free. The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 banned federal funding for toll roads. The last toll road in Tennessee was the Nashville – Franklin Turnpike (modern-day State Route 6) which became toll-free in 1926.


I-40 between Nashville and Lebanon.

Tennessee had no real highways before the creation of the Interstate Highway system in 1956, except for a short highway-like section in Knoxville that opened in 1952 and would later become part of I-40. Construction of the highways began in 1956. The first Interstate Highway to open was a short 2-kilometer stretch of Interstate 65 near the Alabama border on November 15, 1958. Also in 1958, Interstate 275 became opened in Knoxville. In the early 1960s, construction was primarily carried out on I-40 between Memphis and Nashville, I-65 south of Nashville, and short highway sections around major cities. In 1960, the first major road opening was when a long stretch of I-40 west of Knoxville opened. In the late 1960s, I-40 was largely completed between Nashville and Knoxville, and the first sections of I-24 were also opened. During the early 1970s, I-40 and I-65 were phased out, as was the construction of I-81 in the east of the state. In the late 1970s, I-24 was completed.

It was striking that for quite a long time there were missing links in the major cities, for example, the I-40 could only be used in Memphis in 1980 and the I-65 in 1985. In the 1980s, some other short highways were also completed, such as the I-440 in Nashville and I-640 in Knoxville. I-140 was opened between 1992 and 1996, bringing the large-scale construction of new highways to an end. A major project of regional importance is the construction of Nashville’s large ring road, State Route 840, which is not yet completed. It may become I-840 in the future.


In terms of new highways, the focus is on the development of Interstate 69, which is to be built over or parallel to US 51 from Memphis to South Fulton on the border with Kentucky. A second Memphis ring road is also planned, which is already largely completed on the Tennessee side in the form of Interstate 269. In time, a new bridge over the Mississippi River north of Memphis may be constructed. Infrastructure at Memphis is seen as fragile because of the few alternative connections across the Mississippi River.

Another possible project is the construction of the northern half of Interstate 840 around the Nashville area. This would make Interstate 840 one of the longest beltways in the United States. Furthermore, the focus is mainly on maintaining the existing infrastructure and possibly expanding it, especially in the Nashville region, where the strongest population growth is occurring.

Tennessee Road Network