Traffic

DOT Officials: Growth Cause of I-40, I-540 Problem

Posted November 1, 2007

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— Unexpectedly high growth was the root cause behind the design flaws at the intersection of Interstates 40 and 540, Department of Transportation officials said on Thursday.

Around 25,000 cars are caught each morning in a bottleneck that was created when the DOT opened a 4.5-mile extension of 540, called N.C. Highway 540, between I-40 and N.C. Highway 55.

The new highway was supposed to ease congestion and give drivers more options for getting into Research Triangle Park, but DOT eliminated one of two collector lanes for drivers exiting westbound I-540 onto westbound I-40, and the new highway did not draw off enough cars to keep that from being a major problem.

"It's an obvious mistake," one driver told WRAL. "If you can't see it's a mistake, then there's something wrong."

DOT engineers said the bottleneck is a symptom of trying to build our way out of congestion while growth in the Triangle continues. Design problems occur when growth exceeds traffic estimates that were made when the project was designed, officials said.

"The original project was done in the early '90s," Wally Bowman, a DOT engineer, said. "We project traffic 20 years in advance, and the traffic forecast at that time, based on land use and on land development at that time, was that traffic in that particular ramp area would not be that heavy."

When local municipalities rezone areas, more growth than expected occurs, skewing engineers' numbers, Bowman said.

The DOT has created a draft plan to add an auxiliary lane to westbound I-40 between I-540 and Page Road to accommodate the merging traffic. Right-of-way purchases would be funded in fiscal 2009, and construction would begin the next year and end in 2011 – if no new obstacles emerge, officials cautioned.

"if it's already a bottleneck now. ... What's it going to be doing by 2010?" driver Phyllis Newman said.

DOT designated $3.8 million for the project in the latest draft of the annual Transportation Improvement Plan, which contains priority highway, ferry and aviation projects statewide over a seven-year period.

Public hearings will be held on the TIP this winter before the plan is presented to the state Board of Transportation for approval next summer.

31 Comments

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  • skiallyr Nov 3, 2007

    At this rate the mass transit system will be steam driven.

    Nicely said Rand321:

    "The shear fact that the DOT would make a statement shows the level of dysfunction and incompetence among the DOT leadership.

    The current DOT does not work, has not worked and is costing NC and its citizens more money in terms of taxes, gas and time from being stuck in their obvious failures to confront realty."

  • buzzcub Nov 2, 2007

    "Here's another planning tip: Take the slow moving school buses off I40 and put em on back roads. Traffic backups occur as folks try to chunk around them in the morning and eve." - GulfWarVet

    Yes, I totally agree! Why are they on the interstate??? Isn't there a minimum speed requirement (in the absence of traffic jam)? Hope there aren't any children on board.

  • rand321 Nov 2, 2007

    The shear fact that the DOT would make a statement shows the level of dysfunction and incompetence among the DOT leadership.

    My god, most them are in RDU and use those routes. If they cannot update their plans before spending the taxpayers' money, they need to be replaced. I am not a civil engineer, but when they added the 2nd lane before the NC540 extension and the widening of I40, the amount of the traffic three years ago should have a been a clue. did the engineer in charge ever drive the route at rush hour?

    The current DOT does not work, has not worked and is costing NC and its citizens more money in terms of taxes, gas and time from being stuck in their obvious failures to confront realty.

  • HemiTodd Nov 2, 2007

    "Short mindedness and no vision cause of I-40, I-540 problem"

  • Run_Forrest_Run Nov 2, 2007

    Hey Steve, maybe you'd like to use my Commodore Computer. whiz bang fast dude!

  • IHave1-2 Nov 2, 2007

    Thanks for the laugh, Steve Crisp. Now I can finish my Friday on a comedic note. I totally agree with your comments. But, hey, why build Win95 when we already have Windows 3.1?

  • skypilot-not Nov 2, 2007

    You Don't Say.. Gee what geniuses we have at DOT. Ibet you it cost 40 million dollars in studies to figuren that one out. FIX IT !!!!!

  • NeverSurrender Nov 2, 2007

    "How many times have i driven down I40 and seen the work zones but no work going on vs how many times work has been going on?"

    ---

    Or even when the work is supposedly "going on", there seems to be a small army of supervisors standing about to govern the much smaller company of actual workers.

    When they were building the first segment of I-540, I used to watch with amusement the crews alternating weeks between the I-40 and US-70 ends of the road. I figured there had to be a titantic power struggle going on at DOT with two factions duking it out as to who would finish first. Of course, it was absurd that it took as long as it did to do that one segment...the Central Florida Greeneway is longer than all of I-540 and took only about half the time in a climate where rain is a daily occurrence during summer.

  • gpd Nov 2, 2007

    All of you DOT employees better clean up your act at work. There's going to be a TON of "save-face" action taking place and you shall be sacrificed so the appointed leather chair, mahagony desk stuffed shirts can give the public some candy. Their budget cuts, lobbyist pandering won't ever affect them with these issues. But you are fair game.

  • packandcanesfan Nov 2, 2007

    Nahhh.. you think? Why don't someone publish in 100 more magazines about what a great place to live this is. grr

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