Raleigh, N.C. — When road reconstruction begins in the next few months on an 11.5-mile stretch of Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 in Wake County, don't expect an official detour to avoid traffic delays.
"We're not officially signing any specific route, because we don't want to force everybody into that location," Battle Whitley, the North Carolina Department of Transportation's division engineer in Wake County, said Monday.
Defective pavement is forcing the state to tear up and rebuild the stretch – from U.S. Highway 1 in Cary to U.S. Highway 64/264 in Raleigh – over the next three years.
For months, the DOT has been preparing the approximately 110,000 drivers who travel the roadway each day for what will likely be traffic headaches and delays.
Whitley says the DOT plans to use digital message signs to keep drivers updated on travel times and provide real-time information to help them make decisions about alternates to I-40, such as U.S. Highway 70 Business to Hammond Road or Wilmington Street to get into downtown Raleigh or Interstate 540 to get around the I-40 congestion.
I-440, Whitley says, will be the obvious alternative route for drivers trying to get around Raleigh, but the roadway is already congested during daily commutes.
Ultimately, he says, it will be up to drivers to find the best alternate route that works for them. He expects that will take some time, however.
"We're expecting it's going to take probably three to four weeks for folks to get a feel for what the impact is going to be for them," Whitley said.
The DOT, which is expected to hire a contractor shortly, estimates the cost of the reconstruction to be $170 million.
Once construction begins, its goal is to get at least 30,000 drivers to use alternate routes, adjust their work schedules or use alternate forms of transportation to cut down on traffic delays.
A final schedule of road closures isn't yet available, but the DOT has said it expects that information once a contractor has been hired and work begins.
The black line in the map below shows the stretch of Interstate 40 that is being rebuilt. Red lines denote alternate routes that drivers can use to get into and around Raleigh.
View I-40/440 reconstruction project and alternate routes in a larger map