Morrisville, N.C. — State Department of Transportation officials said Friday that N.C. 540 should be ready by Saturday afternoon and open for commuters in Monday morning's rush hour.
The $102 million roadway will run 4.5 miles from Interstate 40 at the Wake/Durham County line to Highway 55 in Research Triangle Park.
For years, RTP commuters have complained about the traffic bottleneck that occurs each morning when thousands of cars on Interstate 540 are forced to squeeze down to one lane to enter I-40.
"It's very frustrating, very frustrating. Hopefully, they'll have it all resolved very soon," said driver Karen Bigler.
N.C. 540 will give drivers three new exits – Highway 54, Davis Drive and Highway 55 – to access Research Triangle Park without having to get on I-40.
"Triangle-area motorists will now have better access to the Research Triangle Park and I-40 and can enjoy the increased mobility, safety and efficiency of the expanded highway," said Transportation Chief Deputy Secretary Dan DeVane.
"Obviously, it's going to be a big help with those traffic-jam problems. There's no doubt about that," said DOT engineer Phillip Johnson.
DOT crews have been working on the extension since February 2004. They said Saturday's opening comes three weeks ahead of schedule.
The North Carolina Turnpike Authority asked the DOT not to call the new section an "interstate" because the commission hopes to open the proposed Triangle Expressway in a few years as a toll road. The toll road would overlap N.C. 540 between N.C. 54 and N.C. 55. There would be legal conflicts if access to a new interstate highway was restricted by tolls.