Construction crews on Raleigh’s southern Beltline will begin working between Saunders Street and Lake Wheeler Road during the week of July 20 to shift the westbound Interstate 40 lanes toward the shoulder as they prepare for bigger changes that are expected to squeeze drivers and create chronic traffic delays.
I-40 has four to five lanes in each direction in the four-mile stretch between the I-440 split (Exit 301) and Lake Wheeler (Exit 297). After the traffic lanes have been shifted toward the outside, crews will close inside lanes to leave drivers with just three lanes in each direction – a pattern they’ll live with for more than a year.
It’s part of the state Department of Transportation’s $130 million, three-year project to rebuild 11.5 miles of I-40 and I-440 across Raleigh’s southern Beltline. Construction on the 3.5-mile I-440 section in Southeast Raleigh is nearly complete, with finishing touches expected by July 30.
Work is under way now to demolish and rebuild the median and inside lanes of I-40 for four miles west from Lake Wheeler Road to U.S. 1 in Cary, where three lanes have been shifted to the outside. Similar work will start in the median east of Lake Wheeler Road after the lanes are shifted and the inside lanes are closed off.
Traffic engineers have warned drivers to expect BeltlineJam delays averaging 30 minutes for routine trips on I-40 – and sometimes extending longer – after the four- and five-lane section of I-40 is reduced to three lanes each way.
The full eight miles of eastbound I-40 (the Inner Beltline) from Exit 297 to Exit 301, will be reduced to three lanes by the end of August, said Steve Abbott, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. The westbound lane reductions will follow.
“We’re going to be into September before the whole thing is in a squish pattern,” Abbott said.