Freeway detour causes concerns for Durham commuters

Posted August 31, 2011

Forrest Smith says he doesn't mind his drive every morning from Holly Springs to Durham.

But getting home on the southbound N.C. Highway 147, also known as the Durham Freeway, is a different story.

"One day, it's smooth as silk," he said Wednesday. "Another day, it's like taking your life in your hands."

Next Tuesday, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will permanently close a stretch of N.C. 147 that runs south of Interstate 40 to T. W. Alexander Drive.

By December, crews will have connected the Durham Freeway with the new Triangle Parkway, which is part of the larger Triangle Expressway toll road project.

Closing the so-called "spur "means drivers on the freeway will have to use I-40 , N.C. Highway 55 and N.C. Highway 54 to connect to T.W. Alexander Drive.

"That's just going to make the matter worse, because there's not going to be any place for those people to go," Smith said.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority's chief engineer, Steve DeWitt, acknowledges the trouble at the existing interchange.

"That's really not a part of what we're improving as part of this project," he said. "I think there are some issues there, long-term, that could be enhanced."

DeWitt says that once the freeway connects with the Triangle Parkway, it should clear some of the congestion.

"This road is part of a systems improvement that should help alleviate some of those things short-term," he said.

Smith is on vacation next week, so he says he won't have to deal with the first days of the new traffic pattern.

But he'll be back on the Durham Freeway the following week.

"I hope, by then, drivers have given up and found another way, but I imagine there aren't going to be any smooth days anymore," he said.


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  • goozleboy Sep 2, 2011

    @ The DOT does exactly what they are told to do from The Govenor. Nothing more and nothing less. All of this blame for the roads keep going down on the DOT and the men and women that work for them but is it not their fault. They are simply told what to do and they do it, just like any other job.

    You're exactly right...No one is in control in this whole fiasco. Poor NCDOT and the other mindless drones of the "system". I am not ignorant enough to believe these folks don't all participate in the backroom dirty deals and truly feel sorry for those left who trust anything the government and its close relatives are involved in. Kill 'em all...let God sort 'em out! LOL Power to the people! You either stand for something of fall for anything.

  • beachbum22 Sep 2, 2011

    The DOT does exactly what they are told to do from The Govenor. Nothing more and nothing less. All of this blame for the roads keep going down on the DOT and the men and women that work for them but is it not their fault. They are simply told what to do and they do it, just like any other job.

  • timwc1953 Sep 1, 2011

    to tarheelbabe; no one ever accused the DOT of being the sharpest knives in the drawer. Case in point: when they originally built the 540 West to 40 West off ramp, who was the mastermind that figured it only needed to be 1 lane wide? Bottleneck city the day it opened. Had to go back and add another lane. At least they realized their mistake and corrected it, but wonder how much extra it cost to do it that way and who it cost???

  • oleguy Sep 1, 2011

    Stop spending money on Roads, Traffic lights and bridges.
    Lay off the complete DOT work force.

    What a cost savings that would be!!! The price of gas would go down,, no need for a state gas tax...

    How would you get to work? You would not need to go to work,
    Simple solution,, Stay home , cut grass, grow food, enjoy life and your kids...
    AAAh the simple life

  • tarheelbabe Sep 1, 2011

    So basically we will be forced to add more time to out commute?
    I use the 147 Spur everyday, it is a GREAT thing for that end of RTP.
    So now basically, if I am going SB on 147 I have to get off at the 1st TW Alexander exit...or take 40 to 54/55 That is going to add to the commute as well as the heavy traffic that already is on that stretch of road. This has to be one of the most stupid ideas ever.
    They could have built a bridge over the spur for the toll road.
    I wish they would have considered us medical prof that live and work on that side of TW. When trying to reach med emer while on call. our travel time will increase by at least 10 mins.....I am beyond angry

  • md32 Sep 1, 2011

    I have used the 147 spur for the 25 yrs i have worked in RTP. Many people use it. Making us go around to Hwy 55 is about 8 miles and 6 traffic lights (round trip) addition to our workday, gas use, pollution, and is a huge negative to the 'RTP experience' That would be almost 1,800 extra miles per year per car, 55 hours extra in the car, $270 more gas (or $900 including wear and tear on our cars), I was wondering since I heard about this in the last week who would be so senseless as to engineer such a mass inconvenience. The WRAL story tells us pretty clearly who. What were they thinking? Should this be called the 'Steve DeWitt Detour'? All they had to do was leave the existing spur of road open.

  • Capt Mercury Sep 1, 2011

    And the Richmond-Petersburg turnpike demise only came about after a state-wide referendum that took many years for the general public of Virginia to make happen.

    So, once it starts, it's not likely to end in our lifetime!

  • cartman Sep 1, 2011

    yeah right, know of any examples of a road going from tolled to non-tolled? "

    I-95 between Petersburg and Richmond was a toll road from 1958 to 1992, when the tolls were removed. Not saying that it is anywhere close to a common occurence but it has happened.

    I'm aware of this situation, there is also one in Florida that also changed.....but that's it....amazing percentages given the hundreds of toll roads in the US.

  • Tax Man Sep 1, 2011

    No problem for me - no Tolls for me!

    Hope all the toll payers will quit driving on Hwy 55, Hwy 54 and Davis Drive once the expressway opens so I will have plenty of room to drive without their contributing to the congestion!

    Now that they are using toll roads for financing it is time for the General Assembly to reduce the gas tax in NC so we are more competitive! Would be nice to stop buying my gas in VA where it is always much less expensive.

  • wiseowl Sep 1, 2011

    "How about all you complainers get out with signs and have a peaceful protest to SHOW the NC DOT that these roads are NOT wanted."

    Maybe because the complainers (and not coincidentally, the tax base) have jobs during the day.

    RTP doesn't have the population of professional hens that can drop everything at the snap of a finger to mobilize against Brad Cooper, I-540, Wake County Schools, and whatever else might be needed.