RALEIGH – The Fortify Project to rebuild sections of I-440 and I-40 in Raleigh took a significant step forward overnight Saturday, July 19. For the first time since the project started, motorists will get to drive on a section of newly constructed roadway.
Crews shifted traffic on I-440 West between I-40 and the U.S. 64/264 Knightdale Bypass from the two outside lanes to the two new inside lanes. The move allows crews to begin rebuilding the outside lanes of I-440 West.
Drivers familiar with this part of the Fortify work zone will notice it means a shift farther to the left than they currently make. To promote safety in this new traffic pattern, motorists should pay close attention when preparing to exit I-440 West in the work zone. In order to leave the interstate, they must cross over the outside lanes and the shoulder to access the Poole Road and U.S. 64/264 exits. The outside lanes and shoulder will be closed to through traffic during construction.
Another difference drivers will notice is the position of the concrete barrier walls, which help protect the construction workers actively engaged with the project. In this traffic pattern, the barrier walls will line both sides of I-440 West, and there will be essentially no shoulders, with the exception of the areas by the Poole Road and U.S. 64/264 exits.
Because there is limited space, drivers experiencing car trouble should make every effort to get to the next exit, where there is space to pull over and safely get out of the vehicle. If a vehicle breaks down in a travel lane and cannot be moved, the driver should stay inside the vehicle, turn on the flashers, and if a cell phone is available, call 911. Getting out of the car would mean stepping into the travel lane and possibly into the path of other vehicles.
Law enforcement, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Incident Management Assistance Patrols, the contracted towing company and contractor employees are trained to look for distressed motorists and quickly come to their aid. In addition, NCDOT employees who monitor the traffic cameras along the project site will alert law enforcement and other first responders as soon as they spot an issue.
As with many traffic pattern changes, this shift will take some time for drivers to get used to, and NCDOT asks motorists to have patience as they learn the new pattern. The department also urges drivers to slow down, use caution and obey the speed limit of 55 mph through the work zone.
Project Update for Other Areas
While work on I-440 West now shifts to rebuilding the two outside lanes, progress continues on I-440 East. Traffic on the east side is expected to shift to the two inside lanes in August.
The entire I-440 rebuild in this initial phase of the Fortify project is anticipated to be complete later this year. Then, work on the larger I-40 section of the project will gear up. Bridge widening and shoulder preparation work along I-40 has been under way for several months in anticipation of that move.
The Fortify project includes the removal and replacement of pavement on 11.5 miles of interstate. That covers I-40 between the I-440/U.S. 1 interchange in Cary and the I-440 split in southwest Raleigh, and I-440 between the split and U.S. 64/264.
A chemical reaction in the 40-year-old substructure of the roadway is causing it to crumble, and in turn, is damaging the road. That has required constant repairs, and led to concerns of ongoing major travel disruptions along one of the state’s busiest stretches of highway.
The initial phase is focused on the I-440 section. During the I-40 phase, traffic in both directions will be in a three-lane pattern. That is expected to start late this year or in early 2015, with traffic expected to be in its final pattern in the fall of 2016.
Because of the expected traffic impact of the project, NCDOT has partnered with Go Triangle, Triangle Transit and Capital Area Transit to promote options to help motorists avoid traveling through the work zones at peak travel times. A Fortify website provides comprehensive information, including alternate transit options, project maps and links to live traffic cameras. Employers can also access online resources to help them develop and implement a flexible work program. The site includes links to Twitter, Facebook and other social media to stay engaged with NCDOT and other commuters.
Triangle Transit has created new commuting options that include express bus service from Johnston County (JCX) and additional service from eastern Wake County. There is also a new park and ride lot at the Wal-Mart at the Cleveland Crossings Shopping Center at I-40 and N.C. 42 for catching the JCX or meeting with carpoolers and vanpoolers to share a ride. To learn more about finding a carpool or vanpool, visit www.sharetheridenc.org.
More new routes, including from Cary through west Raleigh and N.C. State University into downtown Raleigh, as well as a route from Fuquay-Varina into Raleigh are scheduled to begin late this year in anticipation of the project shift to I-40.
Bus On Shoulder System (BOSS) is now active along I-40 from Raleigh to Exit 312 for N.C. 42. BOSS enables busses on designated bus routes to travel in the shoulder of the interstate as long as traffic in travel lanes is moving at speeds lower than 35 miles per hour.
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