Defective pavement to blame for massive Raleigh I-40/I-440 overhaul

Posted February 7, 2013

— Defective pavement is to blame for what the North Carolina Department of Transportation has said will be the biggest road construction project the Triangle has ever seen.

Work on an 11.5-mile stretch of Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 – from U.S. Highway 1 in Cary to U.S. Highway 64/264 in Raleigh – is expected to begin as early as this summer and will likely cause traffic headaches for the approximately 110,000 drivers who travel the roadway each day.

But Judith Corley-Lay, a pavement specialist for the state DOT, says the work is a necessary inconvenience because the roads were constructed in the 1980s using paving materials that react negatively to long-term exposure to water and breaks the cement.

"It's called alkali-silica reactivity, and it's a material defect that we did not understand at the time this project was designed and built," Corley-Lay said Thursday.

The problem wasn't discovered until about 10 years ago, and since then, the DOT has spent nearly $12 million putting temporary fixes, such as patches and overlays, in place.

"No matter what those short-term treatments are, the underlying material is continuing to degrade," Corley-Lay said.

To rebuild the highway, workers will need to dig at least 2 feet to remove and replace concrete and asphalt on the road, shoulders and ramps.

I-40 traffic Raleigh's I-40/I-440 overhaul will affect Johnston EMS

The DOT, which is expected to hire a contractor within the next month, 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, alternate 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.


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  • Durhamighty Feb 8, 2013

    I remember driving this newly opened section of 1-40 back in June of 1985, between Hwy 1/64 all the way down to the S. Saunders St exit - hardly any traffic at the time. I remember it being a bumpy ride back then because of the expansion joints between the original concrete slabs.

  • Nothing New Feb 8, 2013

    ITs not to hard to figure ways to minumize traffic headaches if they would just delay this project. 1) they should go ahead and do the expansion of 440 from I 40 to #1 south in Cary to three lanes, already planed but right now after all this. This could take most of the traffic from southwestern wake to the north and bypass southern 40/440. 2) Finish widening Tryon road to 4 lanes from Lake Wheeler to 70/401 in Garner, then southern traffic would have route bypassing the construction. 3) A long shot here finish I540 and toll the whole darn thing to pay for it and parts of #1 &2. Wont elminate all traffic problems, but certainly would help and those projects need to be done anyway.

  • Offshore Feb 8, 2013

    djofraleigh: since this chemical action has been known about since the Depression era. Why didn't the DOT know in the 1980s?

    What they meant to say is no one on the project at the time new what they were doing... I mean, knew of the chemical reaction... yeah that's the ticket.

  • Road-wearier Feb 8, 2013

    Whatever the reason for the project, NCDOT and the contractor have GOT to find a way to keep more than two lanes open. Two lanes will paralyze the south side of Raleigh during rush hours and holidays.

    I've been wondering if it might not simply be preferable to shut the whole thing down for a year and just get it done rather than monkey around with lane shifts and so forth. Indianapolis did a three year project in 11 months by going to total shutdown...

  • Sherlock Feb 8, 2013

    And we still have to pay for it.

  • Wendellcatlover Feb 8, 2013

    Thank God we completed our move to another part of the county just in time to avoid this nightmare. We knew it was coming and tried extremely hard to get the heck out of that part of town so we wouldn't have to travel this road twice a day. This is going to be a MAJOR catastrophe for people in eastern Wake county. I feel for you all!

  • charlesboyer Feb 8, 2013

    Count on the project to take five years longer than they say and cost at least twice what the "estimates" currently are. That's just how it goes with NC road projects, and if anyone believes any estimate that DOT gives, I have bridge for sale in Brooklyn they might be interested in.

  • JDNCSU Feb 8, 2013

    Someone should go check out the new pavement on I540 between US 1 and the airport...the new pavement is rougher and bumpier thant he old surface!!!

  • whatelseisnew Feb 8, 2013

    They really need to carefully review the actions of EVERY engineer that is currently employed with the DOT. Any of them that were involved in this project that made material decisions must be immediately FIRED. There is no excuse for this kind of error. It is not like concrete is a new material used in road construction. Next the supervisors of these people on up to the TOP should be fired, unless they can PROVE they objected to the construction plan based on material choices. It is TIME for some accountability of State employees ACROSS the board, not just at DOT. Then they have the NERVE to change part of 540 (long ago paid for through an add-on fuel tax), to a toll road. All assets of the involved DOT employees should be seized and sold off to help pay for this egregious failure of professional behavior.

  • swst04 Feb 8, 2013

    Actually I thought the 30 life was pretty good for this road, as heavily traveled as it is. How many times has I-540 been repaved now, since it opened (much newer than the road to be rebuilt).