Drivers who take the South Saunders Street exit off eastbound Interstate 40 will see big changes this week, just in time for the Wide Open Bluegrass street festival in downtown Raleigh.
First, the looping exit from eastbound I-40 onto northbound Saunders Street will reopen overnight Wednesday for the first time since it closed in May 2015. The rebuilt ramp will once again carry downtown traffic off the eastbound lanes of the interstate.
But just as that ramp is reopening, the other exit ramp from eastbound I-40 onto southbound South Saunders Street will close at 8 p.m. Thursday so it can be rebuilt over the weekend. NCDOT says it will reopen in time for the Monday morning commute. In the meantime, detour signs will direct drivers to the Hammond Road exit.
The Wide Open Bluegrass street festival begins at noon Friday and runs through Saturday night, with free live performances. The festival coincides with the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual convention, which includes ticketed concerts at venues throughout downtown and the World of Bluegrass Expo at the Raleigh Convention Center on Friday and Saturday.
The rebuilding of the ramps is part of the years-long effort to replace 11.5 miles of pavement on the southern Beltline that was crumbling because of a chemical reaction in the road’s concrete foundation. The project the state calls Fortify began in late 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 across the south side of Raleigh started in 2015.
State officials say the $183 million project should wrap up by the end of the year.