Ramp meters could ease interstate merging in Triangle
Posted September 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Rush hour traffic around the Triangle can be a major challenge, and engineers say several cars merging at the same time only makes it worse.
“There’s not enough money to allow us to build our way out of congestion,” said Battle Whitley with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
To help ease the flow, NCDOT is moving toward automated ramp meters, which function like traffic signals to control the flow of vehicles merging onto interstates. The system includes sensors in the pavement that trigger the traffic light to activate only when congestion on the interstate reaches a certain threshold.
"When those volumes or conditions change, then the ramp meter turns off," Whitley said.
With ramp meters, the signal changes from red to green every few seconds to allow one car at a time to merge into traffic.
"It keeps people from having to hit the brakes to slow down and cause those backups," Whitley said.
NCDOT recently completed a study that shows ramp meters, which are already used in 13 other states, will work along Interstates 40, 440 and 540. The cost estimate to install the ramp meters range from $3.2 million for 14 sites to $2.5 million for 10 sites.
Still, area drivers have mixed opinions.
"I think that it will cause more congestion, and I think that it will cause a lot more wrecks," said Ally McRee.
Drive Andy Ballin said, "On the surface, it sounds like a great idea."
But traffic engineers are confident they will help.
"There’s potential we could have ramp meters within a year," Whitley said.