I-40 westbound lanes due to close

Eastbound construction work is nearly complete

Staff WriterJune 11, 2007 

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Construction crews who have been working all night and through the weekend to repair paving on Interstate 40 will soon start work on the other side of the road.

Crews repairing botched paving on the interstate between the Durham Freeway and U.S. 15-501 have perhaps one more night left of work on the eastbound lanes before they will start funneling nighttime traffic heading west into a single, slow lane.

Lane Construction Corp. has spent the past two months replacing bad concrete with fresh asphalt in the eastbound lanes of I-40 between U.S. 15-501 and N.C. 147. Westbound travel has not been affected until now.

The change could snag westbound travelers who fail to make it past the work zone each night before the witching hour of 8 p.m. All eastbound lanes will be open.

Two-mile backups have been common in recent weeks, with delays of 30 minutes or more. Westbound travelers are advised to find alternate routes around the work zone. Signs will direct motorists to use an alternate route that combines the Durham Freeway and U.S. 15-501.

Lane is replacing a 3-inch layer of concrete with asphalt on two lanes of I-40 in each direction for 10.4 miles. The concrete began deteriorating soon after it was applied in 2003 and 2004 because state Department of Transportation engineers gave faulty paving instructions to a different contractor.

The repair work takes place at night between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., and around the clock during a few scheduled weekends.

Workers throughout the weekend finished a mile and a half from N.C. 55 to the Durham Freeway interchange, said Eben Miller, assistant resident engineer with the state Department of Transportation. All that remains on the east side are exit ramps, acceleration lanes and a 2,800-foot stretch of the middle lane between N.C. 55 and Fayetteville Road, Miller said.

The weekend work did slow traffic. Backups peaked at 3.2 miles, or about a one-hour delay, Miller said. The state's contract requires workers to halt work if backups exceed 4 miles.

Traffic on Sunday slowed to a trickle because of an accident in the eastbound side near the Fayetteville Road exit. All east lanes were closed for a time late Sunday afternoon, and westbound traffic slowed.

The accident involved three vehicles and two injuries, one serious, according to a news release from the Durham Police Department. One person was trapped in a vehicle. Authorities had managed to clear the accident by 5:30 p.m. A police spokeswoman did not respond to requests for further information.

Miller said workers for Lane helped the police by changing information signs and clearing or closing exit ramps.

"Our contractor did a heck of a job. They did everything they could to try to help the police out there," Miller said.

Miller said officials would meet today to decide whether to work tonight on the east or west side of the interstate.

Preliminary repairs last year caused traffic jams that stretched up to 7 miles and delayed travelers for hours. DOT has worked harder this time to route trucks and other through traffic around the work zone on I-85 and the Durham Freeway. The worst weekend delays this year have been about 3 miles.

"We don't see a tremendous amount of trucks coming through the work zone like we did in the past," said Phillip R. Johnson, a DOT engineer overseeing the project. "We know we had 7-mile backups, and now we're down to three, so obviously people are taking the alternate route."

Staff writer Bruce Siceloff can be reached at 829-4527 or bruce.siceloff@newsobserver.com.

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