RALEIGH – With the holiday season approaching, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is expressing its gratitude to the community for its help in minimizing the impact of construction on 8.5 miles of Interstate 40 in south Raleigh, where Fortify project crews are working to rebuild the crumbling highway.
Since work started in 2014, NCDOT and local transportation, business and community leaders have been working to raise awareness of the long-term project and its potential effects on daily travel commutes in the region.
“The combined efforts – working with the media, employers, the Regional Transportation Alliance and the public, appears to have paid off so far,” State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacy said. “Based upon initial data, it appears that a significant number of people have changed the time of day they travel through this section of I-40, or they are avoiding the work zone all together.”
Although more than 100,000 drivers find themselves traveling daily in reduced and narrowed lanes along the highway, a major change in commute time through the work zone has not materialized.
With the traffic restrictions needed to allow crews to safely do work, projections were that a trip through the work zone during rush hour could take up to an additional 30 minutes each way beyond pre-project travel times. Factor in crashes or bad weather, the commute could be longer.
Instead, that much added time is often only happening for drivers going the 29 miles between N.C. 42 in Johnston County and Interstate 540 west of Cary.
“NCDOT has done outstanding design and construction work and outreach to minimize the impacts to our commuting,” said Pete Marino, Freeways Chair of the Regional Transportation Alliance. “The community has responded to NCDOT's 'Fortify is coming' warning by adjusting how, where and when we travel to keep our region moving.”
In addition to drivers taking advantage of alternate routes, such as Interstate 440, they have also changed their working hours and started telecommuting to help limit the traffic impact.
Jeff Mann, general manager of GoTriangle, says the use of public transit has also been on the rise.
“From April through October, we saw a 139 percent increase in express service from downtown Cary to downtown Raleigh, a 65 percent increase in ridership from Clayton to Raleigh, a 52 percent increase in the express from Fuquay-Varina to Raleigh and a 35 percent increase in the Johnston County Express to downtown Raleigh," Mann said. "As the rebuild continues, we hope more commuters will give transit a try.”
Work on I-40 will continue through 2016. Crews expect to have both directions in the work zone in their final long-term traffic pattern in early December.
That will be when motorists can see the full impact of the changes to their traveling time, and they can continue to look at all the options they have to avoid the work zone at peak travel times.
Crews will finalize prep work for a shift on the U.S. 1/64 ramp to I-40 East this weekend, and the shift itself will take place when work resumes after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
This weekend will also see the final preparations finished for lane shifts on I-40 West between South Saunders Street and Lake Wheeler Road. Those shifts will take place in three stages between Hammond Road and Lake Wheeler Road the first week of December. The following week the concrete barriers go into place to set the long-term traffic pattern
A reminder that with increased holiday travel coming, motorists need to obey the 60 mph speed limit and pay close attention to other vehicles in their area and the road itself. Most crashes in the work zone are attributed in police reports to drivers going too fast and being unable to stop for slowed or stopped traffic in front of them.
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