The squeeze of traffic on the southern Beltline continues, as workers prepare to shift traffic and close an eastbound travel lane between Hammond Road and Rock Quarry Road early this week.
That means eastbound traffic will be confined to the same three shifted lanes from Jones Franklin Road to Rock Quarry. By mid-September, the eastbound shift and squeeze to three lanes will extend to the Interstate 40/440 split, according to the state Department of Transportation.
DOT has the same plans for the westbound lanes in the coming weeks, meaning motorists will lose one to two travel lanes between the I-40-/440 split and Lake Wheeler Road.
The lane shifts and closures are part of a three-year, $130 million project to dig out and replace a concrete roadway foundation that is crumbling because of an unexpected chemical reaction.
I-40 normally carries 120,000 cars and trucks each day on its most heavily traveled 4 miles between Lake Wheeler Road and the I-440 split, where the number of lanes is being reduced from four or five each way to three.
DOT has warned drivers to expect 30-minute delays, on average, once all I-40 traffic has been reduced to three lanes each way for the entire length of the southern Beltline. That traffic pattern is expected to be in place by mid-September, continuing until November 2016.
So far, the worst scattered delays reported by DOT are in the 20- to 25-minute range, both for I-40 on the southern Beltline and I-440 on the northern Beltline. Delays are more likely in the afternoon than in the morning, and more likely for drivers heading east in the afternoon.
With these shifting lanes and other changes coming through September, DOT is urging drivers to pay attention to the roadway and to traffic lane markings. As lanes are moved, motorists need to follow the new 10-foot dotted white lanes on the road, which indicate the new lane pattern. The old lane markings will be blacked out or in some cases ground out of the roadway.
Traffic has picked up with the reopening of schools and the end of summer vacation season. DOT says Labor Day weekend also may put more motorists on the Beltline at unusual times, particularly on Labor Day afternoon when beachgoers head home. It urges local drivers to seek alternative routes that afternoon and evening.