Three years after the state began to tear up and rebuild Raleigh’s southern Beltline, the end of crawling traffic and bumpy rides is in sight.
Motorists still must face about six months of traffic shifts, concrete barriers and ramp closures on the 8.5-mile stretch of Interstate 40 from U.S. 1 to the I-40/I-440 split near Garner as crews continue a reconstruction project the state calls Fortify.
“The big things drivers can expect are additional shifts to facilitate construction, shifts into the final pattern and extended ramp closures for reconstruction and tie-in work,” Fortify project engineer David Connor said about the rebuild.
Fortify, which will cost about $183 million when it’s completed, is one of several major Triangle transportation projects that will move forward in 2017, along with the East End Connector in Durham and new on-ramp signals on Interstate 540.
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Weather permitting, crews will soon begin to shift traffic to the inside lanes of I-40 to allow contractors to rebuild the outside lanes. NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said ramp closures, similar to those that occurred in the fall, will mostly occur over a weekend but could last as long as a week depending on the ramp.
When warmer weather arrives, the contractor can start opening outside lanes in stages. All lanes are expected to open in late spring or early summer.
“Even when all the lanes are open, there will be additional work, as the entire project will get another layer of asphalt,” Abbott said. “That will be done at night, when lane closures have no impact on travel.”
A larger project
The Fortify project was not designed to widen the Beltline, but rather replace 11.5 miles of pavement that was crumbling because of a chemical reaction occurring beneath the surface of the 30-year-old roadway. The work began in 2013 when crews rebuilt a 3.5-mile section of I-440 from the I-40/I-440 split to just north of the Knightdale Bypass. The current work on I-40 started in 2015.
Work was initially anticipated to cause up to 30-minute delays for drivers, but the impact has been much more tolerable, NCDOT officials said. Motorists benefited most from contractors opening three repaved lanes for almost the entire length of the project in 2016.
“With most of the traffic on essentially a brand new highway, driving is smoother through the work zone,” Abbott said.
But smoother roads and reduced congestion have led to more incidents of speeding and associated fender benders, Abbott said.
“The speed limit is 60, but if you drive through there, even in rush hour, you will see vehicles going well above that,” he said. “And it gets worse in non-rush-hour times when the travel lanes aren’t as crowded.”
Other big projects
Here are other major Triangle NCDOT projects in the works:
▪ The 3.9-mile East End Connector in Durham, which will connect the Durham Freeway and Miami Boulevard, is approaching the halfway point in construction. The connector is expected to improve access to Interstate 85 and 40, as well as major employment and retail centers, according to NCDOT.
▪ New stop-and-go lights will be installed on four westbound entrance ramps in the late spring or early summer on Interstate 540. The signals, which are designed to help improve traffic flow during peak commute times, will operate like traffic lights.
▪ A new interchange will open on the Triangle Expressway at Veridea Parkway in early 2017. The interchange, between U.S. 1 and the N.C. 55 bypass in Holly Springs, will provide TriEx access to the future 1,100-acre Veridea development that is expected to eventually contain millions of square feet of retail and office space, along with 8,000 homes and apartments, north of the interchange.
▪ NCDOT officials expect to award a contract later in the year for a Triangle Expressway interchange at Morrisville Parkway to provide additional access from the toll road to western Cary.
▪ Officials expect to award a contract to extend McCrimmon Parkway between Airport Boulevard and Aviation Parkway. It would be a four-lane, median-divided roadway with multi-use paths and bike lanes and is anticipated to help reduce growing congestion along the N.C. 54 corridor.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845, @KTrogdon