Beltline widening project gets real with closing of a bridge over the highway next week

The four-year effort to widen the Beltline in West Raleigh will begin to reroute traffic for the first time Monday, when contractors close a bridge over the highway in advance of demolishing it.

The Melbourne Road bridge will be out for about a year starting at 7 a.m. Monday. Contractors are planning to tear down the bridge the following week and begin building a new one.

Interstate 440 will be closed in both directions while the bridge is being dismantled during the early morning hours from Oct. 8 through Oct. 12. Between midnight and 5 a.m. those days, Beltline traffic will be directed on detours that use Jones Franklin Road and Western Boulevard.

The bridge should be gone by Saturday morning, Oct. 12, said NCDOT spokesman Marty Homan.

While Melbourne will be closed at the Beltline, the ramp onto eastbound I-440 will remain open. The exit ramp from westbound I-440 will also be open, though drivers will be directed to use Deboy Street to get to Melbourne.

The Melbourne Road interchange is one of five that will be rebuilt as the Beltline is widened from four lanes to six between Wade Avenue and Interstate 40. This four-mile stretch of highway dates back to the 1960s, and interchanges at Wade, Hillsborough Street and Western Boulevard will be demolished and rebuilt in new patterns to more efficiently and safely handle traffic.

Drivers who now use Melbourne to cross the highway will be directed to use Western Boulevard or nearby Athens Drive. After the new Melbourne bridge opens next year, the Athens Drive bridge will be torn down and replaced as well.

The Lane Construction Corp. won a $347 million contract for final design and construction of the Beltline project. The contract also includes the building of an underpass to carry Blue Ridge Road under Hillsborough Street and the N.C. Railroad tracks, near the N.C. State Fairgrounds. Construction work on that part of the project isn’t expected to begin until sometime after the 2020 State Fair.

Work on the Beltline began in early August with the cutting of trees around the interchanges at Wade, Western and Jones Franklin.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739,