Raleigh, N.C. — As Raleigh drivers brace for what's been described as the biggest road project in the Triangle, emergency services officials in Johnston County have started talking with the state Department of Transportation about how the work might affect transferring patients to Wake County medical facilities.
DOT crews are expected to begin work as early as this summer on a three-year overhaul of Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 – from U.S. Highway 1 in Cary to U.S. Highway 64/264 in Raleigh.
Work on the 11.5-mile stretch of highway will require lane closures, and transportation officials have said drivers can expect delays – although how much of a delay depends on the time of day, how many lanes are open, the amount of traffic and any wrecks in the area.
"For Johnston County EMS, that route is critical," Josh Holloman, EMS division chief of Johnston County, said Monday. "Fortunately, we only transport about 20 percent of our patients to Wake County, but we do take our sickest patients to WakeMed – with them being a specialty center for heart attacks, traumas and strokes."
That's why Holloman says officials are meeting with the DOT.
Early conversations between both have emergency officials in Johnston County communicating directly with the DOT's State Traffic Operations Center in Raleigh, where workers monitor hundreds of cameras across the state to provide real-time traffic information.
"We've got an abundance of technology that's going to help us," said STOC project manager Bryan Gunter.
In addition to a regular staff of up to five operators in the operations center, Gunter says the DOT is planning on putting additional personnel in place to monitor work zones along I-40 and I-440 when they are active.
Operators will then be able to determine the fastest route for emergency responders to get to their destinations without affecting traffic monitoring in other parts of Raleigh and the state.
"One of the things we really would like to do is to get real-time information into ambulances," Holloman said, "and then make a decision on transport and also include the patient in that decision."
Another goal, he says, is to get ambulance dispatchers direct access to the same information.
"We know we're going to be impacted, especially during the morning commute. That's what we're most worried about," Holloman said. "We plan on making sure we have a good plan and something that we'll deal with."