Fortify

'Fortify' lane closures slow I-40 commute from Johnston

Posted December 15, 2013
Updated December 16, 2013

— Thousands of Raleigh commuters ran into delays Monday morning because of daytime lane closures associated with fixing the pavement on Interstate 440.

As part of the so-called "Fortify" project, construction crews have narrowed the merge lanes from westbound Interstate 40 to westbound I-440, at Exit 16, making the half-mile to mile stretch of merge lanes and the highway one lane.

"I am going to go around it as much as possible," driver Sharone Wilson said. "I'm dreading it. I'm really dreading it. It's going to be a nightmare, and all we can do is get used to it."

Backups began in the 7 a.m. hour, with the heaviest delays at the merge point. Getting from N.C. Highway 42 in Johnston County to the I-40/I-440 split in Raleigh took 48 minutes, more than twice the time needed during a normal morning rush hour.

"The first few days when there is a change like this, things can be a little hectic," said Steve Abbott, communications supervisor for the state Department of Transportation.

In addition to the congestion, drivers complained about the lane markings where the highway has narrowed, with some saying they are confusing and dangerous. DOT officials said crews would work Monday night to grind down old markings and repaint new ones and install reflectors to make sure the lanes are as clearly marked as possible.

There were far fewer problems during the evening commute, but the DOT hasn't yet shifted any eastbound lanes on I-440.

Fortify is the state's project to rebuild crumbling pavement on an 11.5-mile stretch of the heavily traveled I-40/440.

I-40 delays on traffic cam Highway project causes traffic delays in Raleigh

No other work is planned for westbound I-440 until Tuesday night, when crews hope to continue installing lane shifts from Sunnybrook Road to Poole Road. 

On Wednesday night, crews will return to finish the lane closures from Poole Road to the U.S. Highway 64/264 split. 

Work to close lanes on eastbound I-440 is expected to begin after Christmas, officials said.

Once eastbound and westbound lanes are narrowed on I-440, permanent construction barriers will create a two-lane highway through December 2014.

Wake County Public School System officials are preparing now for any future delays created by the Fortify project. The school board plans to discuss options at Tuesday's work session.

The district's Transportation Department doesn't anticipate any major issues with the first part of the project, but officials said Phase 2, which will begin late next year on I-440 in south Raleigh, could pose delays for school buses and services such as food delivery.

DOT to expand commuter options as lanes close

In preparation for increased traffic issues expected due to Fortify lane closures, expanded commuter options became active Monday.

A daily express bus service runs between downtown Raleigh and Cleveland Crossing in Johnston County. Called the Johnston County Express, or JCX, the route follows I-40 to U.S. Highway 70 into downtown. Commuters can try the service for free through January, officials said. 

There are also plans to create a park-and-ride lot at the Walmart in Cleveland Crossings Shopping Center, which is near I-40 and N.C. 42. The lot will allow commuters to park before catching the JCX bus or meet with carpoolers to share a ride.

DOT's Bus on Shoulder System also became active on Monday along I-40 from Raleigh to Exit 312. It enables bus drivers on designated routes to travel in the shoulder of the interstate as long as traffic in travel lanes is moving slower than 35 mph. 

In addition, the existing Zebulon-Wendell-Raleigh Express bus route will be expanded to include midday run.

DOT officials say they hope to get 30,000 drivers off I-40 and I-440 during the morning and afternoon rush hours while the Fortify project is going on.

39 Comments

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  • ThomasL Dec 16, 7:32 p.m.

    So DOT wants 30,000 to peel off and hit 50 hwy or keep going to 401 to go in or hit 70 at garner which will cause these roads that people already go to to AVOID the fools on I40!

    I will bet anyone $1000.00 that within 10 years if you do not live within a 20 mile radius of Raleigh it will take you at least a hour just to get to work esp. with the influx of people moving here.So your choice fight the toads and loose hours of your life for money,or take menial jobs in outlining towns for less money but more home life,choice is yours.

  • Dr Sanchez Dec 16, 7:14 p.m.

    "Unfortunately we're paying the price for someone cutting corners and taking a short cut when the road was built." . . . "They need to tell us exactly what the problem is and which contracting firm caused it."

    There must have been at least two dozen stories and articles written about this project, explaining it, and talking about the state of the art concrete mix that was used at that time 30 years. If you somehow missed these stories the DOT has it on their site. I hope you'll satisfied with the new work, I'm sure they found a way to make the new pavement last forever versus just 30 years.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 16, 6:19 p.m.

    Unfortunately we're paying the price for someone cutting corners and taking a short cut when the road was built.

    I travel the country and I've been on roads which are 30 to 40 years old and older.

    US-52 from Winston Salem to Mount Air in 1963 and is still operational with no problems.

    Older sections of I-40 west of Winston-Salem were built in the 1960's as well.

    They need to tell us exactly what the problem is and which contracting firm caused it.

    My bet is that the contracting firm is still doing work for NCDOT.

  • mike275132 Dec 16, 5:55 p.m.

    "DOT officials say they hope to get 30,000 drivers off I-40 and I-440 during the morning and afternoon rush hours while the Fortify project is going on."

    How stupid can the NC DOT be?

  • tatermommy52 Dec 16, 5:26 p.m.

    When you are sitting in traffic think of a Democrat fatcat still counting his money after the original construction.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 16, 4:14 p.m.

    I'm surprised that anybody seems to be surprised.

    Take away lanes and you slow down traffic.

    I have enough common sense to know this without a degree in civil engineering and a job with the NCDOT.

  • Zealotry Dec 16, 4:08 p.m.

    So the DOT's answer is buses???? What a bunch of amatures

  • jlcoopson Dec 16, 2:59 p.m.

    From the article "Getting from N.C. Highway 42 in Johnston County to the I-40/I-440 split in Raleigh took 48 minutes, more than twice the time needed during a normal morning rush hour"

    No actually - thats about 4x as long as it normally takes to get from exit 312 to exit 300 on an "average" day (takes 10-15 mins normally). I was expecting delays, but thought an extra 30 minutes (normally takes me 30 mins, I allowed for an hour) would be plenty. Crossing over 40 on Cleveland School Rd and traffic at a standstill so I took backroads (took me a full hour).

    Seems like there was very poor planning of the merge point of 40/440 (I haven't seen it) but for it to be 3-4x the amount of time it takes to go 12 miles is crazy. I'm hopefull it will get better once people are used to it, until then backroads and a longer commute!

    Note - the bus transportation from 40/42 to Downtown Raleigh isn't really convenient for those (majority) who don't work IN downtown Raleigh.

  • LamWal Dec 16, 2:32 p.m.

    Get Your Ids, nice way to bring in the healthcare law into this discussion. Not really sure how people complaining about traffic is related to that but whatever!

  • Smart Alex Dec 16, 2:21 p.m.

    well no kidding.

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