DOT Taking More Time to Study I-40/I-540 Bottleneck

Posted August 24, 2007

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— Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Friday that they need more time to study a traffic bottleneck at Interstates 540 and 40 in Wake County.

"Any time you have the summer and vacations, you are going to have 5, 10 percent of people that are out any given week," said DOT division engineer Wally Bowman.

"So, school is back in session now, and you have additional drivers out there, and we need to take a look at those backups and see if they are backing up worse," he said.

Motorists started complaining last month of long lines on the ramp from I-540 south to westbound I-40 after the DOT opened a 4.5-mile extension of I-540 called N.C. Highway 540. It was was supposed to ease congestion and give drivers more options for getting into Research Triangle Park.

Prior to N.C. 540's opening, there were two collector lanes for much of the length of the I-540 approach to westbound I-40. They eventually narrowed to one lane. Crews eliminated one of the lanes, however, leaving one going to both westbound and eastbound I-40.

Last month, DOT officials admitted engineers should have looked at ways to avoid the problem and said it would monitor the lane. Engineers installed traffic counters in the area and have recorded more than 24,000 vehicles daily over the past month.

There has been no clear timetable on when the study will be complete. Possible long-term solutions include adding another lane leading up to the ramp and building a second ramp lane.

In the meantime, the DOT is putting together informational maps to help navigate the new N.C. 540 exits, which only about 4,500 drivers used.

Motorists were unhappy to hear of the DOT's need for more time to study things, however.

"It takes about 10 seconds to figure this one out," said motorist Charles Webb. "It didn't work. It was a bad idea. It really was."

"They just need to really do something about it so that we can get where we need to go very fast," said another motorist, Lashuane Wise.

Bowman said there are ways to avoid the bottleneck.

"If you are currently taking Page Road off to I-40 into RTP on the southern side, try N.C. 540 down to N.C. Highway 54, and then come up Page Road and go in that way," he said. "And I think, overall, you'll see your travel time would be reduced."


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  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 26, 2007

    "If you are currently taking Page Road off to I-40 into RTP on the southern side, try N.C. 540 down to N.C. Highway 54, and then come up Page Road and go in that way," he said. "And I think, overall, you'll see your travel time would be reduced."

    I don't think most traffic coming off of 540 onto I40W need to take Page road exit. They're probably trying to avoid the US70/Alexander road route into RTP, first because they have to stop at the light at Brier Creek, and second because they have to merge with all the traffic coming out of Raleigh on US70. Most 540 commuters work in the northern part of RTP, not in the southern part--or they work in Chapel Hill or South Durham. The advice to just use 54, Davis, or 55 exits doesn't help most commuters in this case, unless you work at Cisco, EPA, or Ericsson.

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 26, 2007

    The exit for I40E from 540 is another poor design, given that very few commuters use that exit. It is separated by a grassy median, which could also be eliminated in favor of extending the double merge lanes onto the westbound I40 ramp from that point all the way back to the Aviation Blvd interchange.

  • texlady Aug 26, 2007

    fkozlof have you stopped to think that maybe they have the lane closed because concrete or aspahlt had just been poured.
    What would happen if they had just paved and then let traffic on the lane that was just paved? It has to have time to cure.
    If they let you drive on it right after paving what do you think would happen? Than everybody would be on here complaining about how their cars were ruined. So next time you see a lane closure and "not a worker in sight" stop and think. There dosent have to be a worker in sight for concrete to cure. But that lane does have to remain closed for a certain period of time.

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 26, 2007

    What you all seem to be forgetting is that there's other westbound traffic on I40, some of which must exit at Page Road. The volume of westbound traffic on I40 is significantly higher than the volume of westbound traffic from 540, so I40 traffic takes priority for safety reasons. If DOT installed two acceleration lanes for the 540 traffic, it would make it nearly impossible for I40 traffic to exit safely at Page Road.

    Having said that, the volume of westbound traffic merging on I40 from 540 is still very high and will only get higher. That doesn't mean that one accelation lane/Page Road exit lane can't handle the traffic. What DOT needs to do is create long double exit lanes on 540 that merge together at the ramp. If people would just use both lanes to merge at the the ramp, rather than stopping and trying to merge in at 3-5 separate points, the traffic would flow together smoothly, and the amount of traffic merging onto I40 would be manageable.

  • 5Rs Aug 26, 2007

    wayne1961: In the first place, the whole design of the latest 540 project, addition of more miles that resulted in the elimination of the two local fixes (2 lanes going west on 40 using the shoulder and the temp exit off the 40 Eastbound exit) was flawed because the extension did not address the problem the fixes were addressing, that of too much traffic onto 40 and Page road for one exit lane. That the issue wasn't addressed is squarely in DOT's lap.

    Second: for DOT to say they need a "study" without saying what the "study" addresses is a marketing mistake. If DOT said "we need to look in detail at the issue and design a solution (short term and long term)that meets the needs of the commuters and travelers ASAP, all of the negative feedback would not be necessary. "Study" by bureaucracies imply inaction.

    Your comments are good. Hopefully DOT is listening.

  • Timtooltime Aug 26, 2007

    They must be N.C. State or UNC engineer's running the Dot Program ! GOOBERS !

  • fred08 Aug 25, 2007

    Ok Speedy here's my point. I have no clue why "DOH" shutdown that lane. Complaints and results will obviously point them to alter the decision. But saftey formulas change, traffic projections change, enviromental concerns change, needs change. So the DOH changes and learns with it. My problem is with all the folks on here calling the DOH engineers a bunch dumba--es. I'm not one of them, but I find it offensive that people can talk so rude about a public service department that is constantly trying to make your lives easier and safer. They act as though it's a right and not a privelage.

  • speedy Aug 25, 2007

    fred08: No, I'm sorry, but I don't get your point. If this was the first interchange the DOT did, or there was something significantly difficult about it, then OK, but this is pretty much straight outta the textbook.

    By the way...does everyone know it's more correctly the North Carolina Department of Transportation - Division of Highways that does the design and build work?

    That's NCDOT-DOH!

    Homer and Bart knew.

  • fred08 Aug 25, 2007

    speedy, I think you get my point.

    .... and I don't think anyone ever stops learning.

  • anonemoose Aug 25, 2007

    Only one really saw what DOT said......If drivers would stop using that exit in the mornings, there wouldn't be any congestion and that would solve the problem. See now, you guys and my wife are the real problems here, not the lack of enough lanes.