First Taste of N.C. 540 Mixed for Commuters

Posted July 16, 2007

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— Monday was the first test for the long-awaited extension of Interstate 540 that state road engineers say will bring traffic relief to thousands of commuters headed into Research Triangle Park.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation said the morning-traffic flow along the new N.C. 540 went as well as they expected.

The 4.5-mile stretch from Interstate 40 at the Wake-Durham county line to N.C. Highway 55 offers three exits into RTP. Until now, thousands of vehicles had to cram into one lane of I-540 every morning to get to I-40 and RTP.

"It as great," driver Jamal Thompson said Monday. "(It) took 10 minutes off my drive. It was perfect."

But some commuters traveling Monday from I-540 to I-40 complained of long lines on the I-40 exit ramp.

Prior to N.C. 540's opening on Saturday, there were two collector lanes for much of the approach of westbound I-40 into RTP that eventually narrowed to one lane.

Now, however, the ramp narrows to one lane sooner, which results in one lane each going to westbound and eastbound I-40 and three lanes over top of I-40 onto the new N.C. 540.

DOT engineer Phillip Johnson said traffic would flow better if motorists get in line earlier for the ramp. DOT engineers said they are studying the current traffic patterns and will make changes if they think they can improve the flow.

"It's going to take a week or so to work itself out and for people to figure out the best way for them to get to work," driver Craig Kempson said.

Crews began working on the $102 million I-540 extension in February 2004 and finished three weeks ahead of schedule.

“It’s been a long three years for this project, and we’re happy to see it open and (are) hoping the public is going to be happy with it, too,” said DOT representative David Byrd.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority asked the DOT not to call N.C. 540 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.


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  • IveGotMyOpinion Jul 18, 2007

    The DOT engineers did the same thing a year and a half ago when the 147 exit meeting up with I40 east went from 2 lanes into one lane. Do you guys have any computer-modeling software or something like that to help you out? You HAVE to get better at designing interchanges!!!

  • Bob Sidel Jul 18, 2007

    tarheels- give me your adress, I'm going to purchase you a thesaurus so you can use a synonym for "incompetent". One lane road makes it easy for a one track mind.

  • tlh1005 Jul 17, 2007

    SRG, I feel your pain. Even when the I-40 interchange was two lanes I couldn't stand it. I found myself too angry to start my work days because of the Westbound drivers knowingly riding out the Eastbound lanes and cutting over at the last minute. If you're headed east I would take Aviation Rather than 540. Trust me, it's a much smoother commute.

  • tlh1005 Jul 17, 2007

    m0nky, Take a visit to the I-40 entrance from 540 just after Aviation. When this exit was two lanes it was backed up over 1.5 miles past the Aviation exits. Remove one lane and imagine what happens. Most commuters on I-40 aren't headed towards Davis Drive..Is that sinking in?

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jul 17, 2007

    Another incompetent act by the NC DOT.

    At the I-540W and I-40E/W interchange there is one lane supporting the majority of traffic using the exit. Yet there are three lanes to nowhere going south towards NC-54, Davis Dr, and NC-55.

    This obviously makes great sense to the incompetent NC DOT. One lane for most of the traffic on I-540 West, and three lanes for a few cars going towards the southern part of RTP.

    Once again DOT, you messed up as usual in your normal incompetent fashion.

  • wake watchdog Jul 17, 2007

    2nd half:
    Nowhere else in our state can I think of a place where only 1 lane is dedicated to connect 2 interstates. Worse yet, this 1 lane has to absorb thousands upon thousands of Triangle communters during the morning rush hours. I think the DOT overestimated the number of commuters who would alternatively use Davis Dr., Hwy 54 or Hwy 55 to commute to work. Many folks from N Raleigh actually commute to Durham, Chapel Hill or beyond and therefore need the I-540 to I-40 route for their commute. Put simply, the NC DOT must re-design this "connector" of 2 interstates into 2 lanes. It's really that simple. I hope you continue to stay on top of this with your investigative reporting.

    Love ya, mean it!

  • wake watchdog Jul 17, 2007

    Here's what I emailed to Mark, our beloved trafficologist (had to break it out into 2 threads). For journalistic purposes, I think the issue is this simple:

    Hi Mark -
    I enjoy your traffic reporting. You provide a great service for Triangle commuters. If you haven't done so, check out our lively discussion on the WRAL blogs regarding the "mixed results" of the opening of I-540. Many of us really think the NC DOT botched the design of exit ramps leaving I-540 and connecting to westbound I-40, and used the opening of NC 540 this past weekend as their "PR blitz" to sugarcoat a problem that will not go away if commuters simply "get in line in orderly fashion". This is not practical, and will not solve the larger design flaw caused by the NC DOT.

  • wake watchdog Jul 17, 2007

    Monky -
    Try not to take these arguments personally. We're talking about roads here, not exactly the most imflammatory of blogosphere topics. Your points are just simply not sinking in with most of us. You seem to be missing the larger point that I-540 is an INTERSTATE and I-40 is an INTERSTATE. This I-540 to I-40 mess is a whole different ball of wax than 1 lane exiting off an interstate onto a regional road or NC hwy (e.g. Davis Rd or Hwy 54). Take a look at all other intersections in central NC connecting 2 interstates (e.g. I40 - I85 in Mebane) and you will see 2 lanes for the connector as opposed to 1 lane. This enables drivers to remain close to posted speed to connect from 1 interstate to another. Otherwise, sheer volume/capacity of all the cars trying to connect into another interstate will result in massive back-ups. also:remember,not everyone taking I-540 to I-40 from N Raleigh is commuting to RTP. MANY, MANY of them are commuting to Durham, CH or beyond

  • m0nky Jul 17, 2007

    trunpike420: do you read anything for comprehension? yes there are 3 straight lanes, but i'm talking about 3 exits off of the new stretch of 540. i know the difference between a lane and an offramp.

    you seem set in your ways though and completely unwilling to listen to another viewpoint. your plan is clearly the right one. you hold the sole answer to our funding problems. you are the highway system mesiah. we've awaited your comign for so long.

    i'm done here...opinions aren't going to be swayed one way or another. get your last word in and post your link again. have fun fighting for something so minor.

  • Pilot Jul 17, 2007

    Another case of "take it or leave it" in North Carolina! It's unbelievable that an educated engineer would say that if you "get in line earlier" it will sort itself out! That's the problem, THE LINE!