Commuters on Interstate 540 in North Raleigh will notice new traffic signals in the next week or two, as the N.C. Department of Transportation prepares for the state’s first ramp meters to regulate the flow of traffic getting on to the highway.
The signals will be installed on four westbound on-ramps and will be used to let one or two cars down the ramps at a time during morning rush hour and other times of heavy traffic, such as after an accident. The system should be completed and ready to use by the end of September.
In preparation, NCDOT expects to close the westbound on-ramp for Falls of Neuse Road from 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, through the weekend to install wiring in the road. Detour signs will direct drivers onto southbound Falls of Neuse to Strickland Road and Six Forks Road until the ramp reopens at 6 a.m. Monday.
In addition to Falls of Neuse, the ramp signals will be installed on westbound on-ramps at Six Forks, Creedmoor and Leesville roads.
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The signals aim to break up the long lines of vehicles that pour onto the freeway by switching between green and red, allowing one or two drivers to go, then stopping the next ones for a few moments. The idea is that putting some space between the vehicles on the ramp should make it easier for them to merge into traffic on the highway, improving the flow and reducing the number of accidents.
The lights will be turned off during times of normal traffic.
It will be the first time ramp signals have been used in North Carolina, though they’re common in cities around the country, including Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. If the lights work on I-540, NCDOT will look for other places in the state to try them.
For more information about ramp signals, go to www.ncdot.gov/projects/onrampsignals/.