Bill clears way for highway ramp meters

Posted June 11, 2014

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is looking into the installation of ramp meters, which are signals along interstate ramps that control merging traffic.

— Drivers around Raleigh could see ramp meters controlling the flow of traffic onto highways if a bill that cleared the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday is signed into law.

House Bill 1025, which must clear the full Senate before returning the House, would make ignoring a ramp meter, which looks something like a traffic light, an infraction. 

The state Department of Transportation is already eying several locations around Raleigh as places where they believe ramp meters could ease traffic flow at busy highway interchanges. But current law would treat ignoring a ramp meter the same as running a traffic light, a serious violation that brings with it insurance points and hefty fines.

"We do not believe the risk of running a ramp meter is anywhere near the risk of running an intersection," Kevin Lacy, an engineer with DOT, told the committee.

Changing the violation to an infraction would allow tests with the new systems, which are used in other states, to go forward. 

Lacy said that four locations on the northern part of Interstate 540 in Wake County were the first places in line for ramp meters. The city of Raleigh has also asked the state to look at other interchanges on Interstate 440. Charlotte city officials have asked DOT to look at highway interchanges in Mecklenburg County. 

Other portions of the measure, which binds together more than a dozen smaller transportation-related issues, would allow the department to advertise on the side of trucks that provide motorist assistance – a program that might net between $1 million and $2 million – and would repeal the legislative mandate for an annual report by DOT that details the number of crashes caused by drivers turning right on red. A DOT official said that the report details only one or two accidents every year, so is not very useful.

The measure passed on a voice vote and is headed to the Senate floor.


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  • tgiv Jun 12, 2014

    The big government dunderheads in the Statehouse strike again.

  • Shawn Kennedy Jun 11, 2014
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    Sometimes people come up with good ideas but this isn't one of them. This will make traffic worse how are you suppose to merge from a dead stop with people doing 70 mph or faster??? Good luck!

  • Jeff DeWitt Jun 11, 2014
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    Most people don't know how to merge properly. The studies have shown that in heavy traffic it's best to wait until near the end of the merge lane to merge, but EVERYONE has to do that. As it is some people merge early (as I tend to do) and others go to the end of the lane and then many people don't want to let them in as they feel the driver of the merging car is trying to cut in. These lights are a way to deal with that, as are zipper merges.

    I for one am in favor of ANYTHING reasonable to improve the flow of traffic, and reducing confusion at merges would be a big help, be it these lights, zippers or even just big signs that say "MERGE HERE" with an arrow pointing at that spot on the road.

  • tayled Jun 11, 2014

    Not a good idea. There's nothing wrong with the merge system if everyone does it correctly and courteously. The traffic coming off a ramp must first make sure they can merge and then safely match their speed to the oncoming traffic. No need for meters, they will only cause more confusion and accidents.

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Jun 11, 2014

    So tell us, which legislator(s) own a part of the company that makes these things?

  • davidhartman Jun 11, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The traffic in not moving. It is stop and go, so not using the full lanes or queue is stupid and causes traffic to back up in one lane exponentially longer than the other. Your argument isn't valid in theis scenario.

  • Erica Konopka Jun 11, 2014
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    Ugh, I first saw these things in the Seattle area and was so confused the first time I came upon one. I don't understand how they expect people to accelerate and get up to a safe speed for joining other drivers on the highway if people are forced to sometimes wait at a light to get on in the first place. We don't have enough traffic here to need this. I agree with other posters who commented that the money pinned for this would be better put to use fixing the roads we have that are in poor condition.

  • Rod Runner Jun 11, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    They need to test it first, so it wouldn't make much sense for them to install it in the busiest place first.

  • Kim Schrock Jun 11, 2014
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    The bill is ridiculous. You'll be standing on a ramp waiting for a green light in the middle of the night when there is little traffic. Stop lights have nothing to do with speed entering the freeway either. The bill also wants to lower driver testing requirements if you read the bill.

  • Billy the Kid Jun 11, 2014

    Just learn to drive. Go when it's time to go and stop when it's time to stop. Think 3 moves ahead and look beyond you nose or IPhone. Really, it's not hard. Try it!