Raleigh – As Triangle drivers brace for the impact on traffic when a new phase of work begins this summer on the 11.5-mile Fortify I-40/I-440 rebuild project in Raleigh, local leaders hope for a snapshot of what area roads and local transportation might look like in the years to come.
"The regional business community recognizes that maintaining the integrity of our freeway system is essential for regional mobility and commerce, and we are fully supportive of the Fortify project," said Joe Milazzo II, executive director of the business leadership group Regional Transportation Alliance. "We applaud NCDOT, GoTriangle and other partners for creating travel options that will provide relief now during construction and point the way to our enhanced transit future as our market continues to grow."
Milazzo was among a group of Raleigh transportation, business and community leaders on Monday presenting recommendations for future transit options and hearing feedback on them from Wake County residents. It was one of a series of public meetings focused on what expanded train and bus services could look like in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States.
"As this region continues to grow, our data shows that we need to offer more choices when it comes to local transit," said David King, CEO and general manager of GoTriangle. "Our current partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation for the Fortify project is allowing us to drive home the increasing viable public transit options and their value. If 10 percent of drivers on I-40 took the bus, carpooled or vanpooled just one day a week, it would remove 2,200 cars from the road daily. That's 5.5 miles of traffic."
As part of the Fortify partnership with GoTriangle, NCDOT has invested $12 million in transit options in a greater effort to get 30,000 vehicles off the road and away from the Fortify construction zone during peak travel times. Approximately 120,000 vehicles travel through the area daily.
In the coming weeks, work crews will shift traffic, eventually reducing an 8.5-mile stretch of I-40 from U.S. 1 in Cary and the I-40/440 split in Raleigh to three lanes in each direction. Once the long-term traffic pattern is in place, engineers estimate an additional 30 minutes for each trip when traffic conditions are ideal – or longer when there is bad weather or a wreck in or near the construction area.
To help minimize the construction's effect on traffic, GoTriangle has added daily express bus service routes between downtown Raleigh and cities in Wake and Johnston counties – last fiscal year, there were more than 21.3 million rides in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and Johnston County. The group has also increased rideshare programs and has been helping NCDOT make local employers aware of commuting alternatives such as teleworking and flexible work schedules.
NCDOT has also been providing businesses, community leaders and the tourism industry with updates on how the upcoming construction will affect not just commuters but also visitors to Raleigh. The latest project information, as well as information about road closures and changes to traffic patterns can be found online at FortifyNC.com.
Work on the Fortify project is expected to be complete in late 2016, but NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata says discussions about future transit needs will continue beyond then.
"As we complete this necessary safety rebuild project we are working hard to minimize the impact to anyone who travels through the area, and our transit partners play a vital role in that effort," Secretary Tata said. "Continuing to invest in long-term transit options in the Triangle and other high-growth areas of the state is an important part of our multimodal vision to better connect people and support economic growth."
Crews are wrapping up work on I-440 and gearing up to start on I-40.
This weekend, the Saunders Street (U.S. 70/401/N.C. 50) exit ramp loop toward downtown Raleigh (Exit 298-B) on I-40 East will close. Drivers will be directed to use Exit 298-A instead. That change will be in effect until sometime next year to allow for bridge and shoulder work in the area. Final steps are also underway to get ready for an I-40 West traffic shift to the outside, using the newly paved shoulder between the sound wall west of Gorman Street and U.S. 1/64 in Cary. That shift to put vehicles between construction barriers should take place after the Memorial Day weekend break.
Over on I-440, the westbound side will have its top layer of asphalt completed by Sunday night, providing a smoother ride for drivers. In the eastbound lanes, crews will be putting down the final roadway striping over the next several days so the contractor can start opening the third lane of the interstate and put it back to full capacity.
NCDOT urges all drivers to travel at posted speed limits and use caution while in the Fortify work zone.
For more information, visit FortifyNC.com or contact Mark Mueller at 919-707-2684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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