Smithfield Herald

NCDOT postpones I-440 Beltline rush-hour squeeze until next week

Thousands of Triangle commuters got a brief reprieve from Beltline gridlock Wednesday when the state Department of Transportation decided to postpone its plan to close lanes on Interstate 440 in Southeast Raleigh.

DOT officials had said that they would close two lanes on I-440 West (the Outer Beltline) starting Thursday morning and that the closure would continuefor about a year. Now they say that won’t happen until sometime next week.

The 11th-hour reversal came as engineers began considering possible adjustments to smooth the traffic flow and reduce the expected congestion for Beltline drivers as they enter the I-440 construction zone from Interstate 40.

The planned lane closings will push as many as 91,000 vehicles a day into just two lanes on I-440 – the present outside lane and the freeway shoulder. DOT engineer Dennis Jernigan had said Tuesday that the flow of drivers who enter I-440 coming from both directions on I-40 would be reduced from two lanes to one lane, something he did not expect to cause long backups on I-40.

But he said Wednesday that project planners are considering a change that might improve that flow.

“We’re just trying to improve the design that we had,” Jernigan said. “We want to make sure we’ve got it exactly the best we can get it.”

Nighttime work and lane closings will continue this week. Jernigan said he doesn’t know when the daytime closings that had been planned for Thursday will begin.

It’s part of a three-year, $130 million repair job for 11.5 miles of the Beltline from U.S. 1 in West Raleigh to U.S. 64/264 in East Raleigh. DOT will spend the next year digging out and replacing all the pavement on the 3-mile I-440 portion in Southeast Raleigh, and then turn to the longer, busier I-40 section across South Raleigh.