A state Department of Transportation plan to install traffic signals on four on-ramps on Interstate 540 next year is getting mixed reviews from residents.
The signals, known as ramp meters, will switch between green and red, allowing one or two drivers to merge into traffic before stopping the next ones for a few moments. The idea is to break up long lines of vehicles that pour onto the freeway during rush hour.
At a meeting Thursday evening at the Abbotts Creek Community Center on Durant Road, some people said they were hopeful the new devices could alleviate traffic near the on-ramps at Falls of Neuse, Six Forks, Creedmoor and Leesville roads.
“I think it will be a good thing,” said Carole Brown, who lives near the interchange of Six Forks Road and I-540.
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Brown said she uses the freeway frequently and that friends have told her the meters work well in some other cities.
But some said they doubted the meters would be effective at easing traffic jams during rush hour and after accidents. If traffic from the on-ramps begins to back up, pavement sensors will turn the signal green long enough to clear traffic.
Kenny Hicks, a salesman who lives in Youngsville and works in Knightdale, said he didn’t think ramp meters would do enough to ease traffic backups. He’d prefer the state add more lanes.
“It’s going to be a waste of money, and people are going to be sitting on the side roads longer,” he said.
DOT has received a lot of positive feedback on the plan from community groups, said Jamille Robbins, public involvement leader.
“We expect it to be successful, and even expect them on future projects in the Triangle,” Robbins said, adding that the state is considering ramp meters in Charlotte.
Robbins said the state spent $400,000 on software that will run the meters in Raleigh. The project should be completed by September 2017.
The ramp meters will be the first of their kind in North Carolina, though they’re common in other large cities, including New York, Houston and Atlanta. They will be monitored at the DOT’s traffic operations center, which can can manually adjust the signals if necessary.
The lights will be placed about halfway down the ramps, giving drivers enough space to get up to speed from a dead stop. They will be turned off when not in use.
John Halifax, who lives in the North Ridge neighborhood, said he didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other about the meters, but he will support them if they keep traffic moving.
“That means you have faster response when someone breaks down or has an accident,” he said.
Brown said she expects drivers will initially be confused by the meters, but she’s confident they will be a good thing.
“I just don’t quite get how it’s going to work, but they’re pretty smart and I understand they work,” she said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi