Frustrated with traffic? NCDOT uses data--not feelings--to open up congested roads

Posted June 8

— At 10 a.m., traffic rolls pretty well on westbound Interstate 40 near the Durham County-Orange County line.

But Julie Anzora says it's not like this when she leaves work.

"It comes to a stop every day from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.," Anzora said.

Just inside Orange County, I-40 squeezes from four lanes to just two lanes between U.S. Highway 15-501 and the Erwin Road bridge.

It's one of the Triangle's perpetual bottlenecks.

DOT engineers want to add lanes to both directions, but so far the project hasn't met the funding criteria.

"We look at ways to fund the best transportation projects with our very limited dollars," said David Wasserman, who runs the NCDOT's strategic prioritization office.

Frustrated with traffic? NCDOT uses data--not feelings--to open up congested roads

As traffic congestion builds in other parts of the area, though, a lot of frustrated drivers wonder when the state will widen major roads or build new ones.

There's only so much money to go around, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation has to decide how to spend it.

In 2013, the state changed the way it evaluated road projects.

Wasserman said the state removes politics from the process.

"We now use a combination of data and priorities from our local partners to select the highest-scoring, best transportation projects across the state," Wasserman said.

Looking at everything from crash data to traffic volume, the DOT scores each project. The highest-scoring projects get built.

Wasserman said the DOT hasn't forgotten about I-40.

"It's still on our radar," Wasserman said. "It will go through the prioritization process next time, and hopefully, it will score high for those motorists who use it every day."

Anzora is one of those people who would love a faster commute.

"It'll probably be worse traffic while it's in the process, but in the end, it would be great to have more lanes," Anzora said.

Of the 2,000 projects the DOT evaluated last year, only 17 percent scored highly enough to receive funding.

It revisits the 10-year plan every couple of years. An updated edition is due later this summer.


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  • Jason Merrill Jun 9, 9:39 a.m.
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    Hopefully 40 between Hwy 210 and the 440 Split both ways get approval for widening. That corridor is really bad from 6:20am - 9:00am going west and 3:00pm - 6:30pm going east, and on Fridays in the summer going east is even worse due to beach goers.

  • Andrew Stephenson Jun 9, 7:50 a.m.
    user avatar

    Hah, the title of this story is written as if they were anticipating all the armchair civil engineers that will add their two cents in the comments below.