RALEIGH – The Fortify Project to rebuild sections of I-440 and I-40 in Raleigh took another significant step forward. Traffic on I-440 East through the work zone was shifted overnight from the outside two lanes to the two newly-built inside lanes between the I-495/U.S. 64/264 Knightdale Bypass exit and I-40. The move allows crews to begin rebuilding the outside lanes of I-440 East. The same move was made for I-440 West last month.
For drivers going through this three-mile section of the Fortify work zone it means a slight shift farther to the left than they have been making, and a sharper move to the right to access the exits for Poole Road and I-40. Except for the exit ramps, the outside lanes and shoulder are closed to through traffic for the rest of this phase of the project, which is expected to wrap up late this year.
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.
Because there isn’t shoulder space along I-440 in either direction in the work zone, drivers experiencing car trouble or who have been involved in a minor accident but whose vehicle can still move, should make an effort to get to the next exit, where there is space to pull over and safely get out of the vehicle. If a vehicle cannot be moved, the driver should stay inside, turn on the flashers, and if a cell phone is available, call 911. Getting out of the car puts the driver or passengers into the other travel lane and possibly into the path of on-coming vehicles.
Law enforcement, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Incident Management Assistance Patrols, the contracted towing company and project 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.
Now that the rebuilding of the two inside lanes in both directions of I-440 is finished, crews are doing the same work on the outside lane and shoulder in each direction. When that work is done later this year, the project shifts to the larger I-40 section of the project
between the I-440/U.S. 1/64 interchange in Cary and the I-440 split in southwest Raleigh. 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 the highway surface and substructure along 11.5 miles of interstate on I-40 and I-440. A chemical reaction in the 40-year-old substructure of the roadway is causing it to crumble, and in turn, damaging the road surface. That 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 so that highway would be available as an alternate route for drivers to use to get around the construction on I-40 when it starts. 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 the entire project wrapping up in the Fall of 2016.
Because of the expected traffic impact of the project, especially when work is under way full-time on I-40, NCDOT is partnered with Go Triangle, Triangle Transit and Capital Area Transit to promote options to help motorists avoid traveling through the work zone 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 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 mph.
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