DOT Eyes Shoulders for Extra Highway Lanes

Posted January 21, 2008

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— State transportation officials are considering opening the shoulders of major North Carolina highway to rush-hour traffic to ease congestion.

Department of Transportation crews are surveying stretches of interstate in Charlotte to open shoulders for traffic. DOT officials said they aren't looking at doing this in the Triangle, but they would be willing to consider it for Interstate 40.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory broached the subject last week during a debate between the four Republican candidates for governor.

"I would use the shoulders of the road immediately and get out of this frame-set during rush hour for areas like I-40 here (in Raleigh and) I-77 in my area," McCrory said.

DOT engineers said the idea is easier said than done. The lengthy process includes getting Federal Highway Administration approval, they said.

Engineers said they also must ensure there's enough room along the shoulder to add another lane for regular traffic, that there's enough clearance along the shoulder for large trucks to pass under every overpass and that using shoulders for traffic wouldn't adversely affect entrance and exit ramps.

Van Carver, who regularly drives on I-40, said the issue of having enough room for disabled cars and emergency vehicles is the issue that concerns him most about allowing regular traffic on highway shoulders.

"I saw someone drive into the back of a parked car on the highway," Carver said. "The emergency lane should be used by emergency vehicles only."

But Cary resident Art Clark said the state needs to take some action to relieve congestion on I-40.

"Something needs to be done, some planning. Somebody needs to look at an alternative to what we have now. To keep going the way we are now, it's going to get worse and worse," Clark said.


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  • jreesnc Jan 22, 2008

    Also consider the hard shoulder often is not rated for the same load the rest of the highway. In other words, the thickness of the pavement and the reinforcement is less. Large commercial vehicles operating on these lanes will break them down faster.

  • SEOpro Jan 22, 2008

    This is an absolutely absurd, horrible "idea". I don't even think it qualifies as an idea. I think it is a brain-poot. If we wait a few moments, the stench will dissipate.

  • Space Mountain Jan 22, 2008

    Another bad idea from the DOT, the worst managed agency in the state.

  • Myrrdin Jan 22, 2008

    Why not? I see people using the shoulders already when their destination is more important than the rest of us already sitting in traffic.

  • john60 Jan 22, 2008

    I-40 has no excess space to widen in the median; the shoulder there is only 11-12' wide too so there's no room to add more lanes without major reconstruction. Once that concrete median barrier is in there, that segment is maxed out for expansion. Look under the overhead bridges too; sometimes the outside shoulders narrow a foot or so to squeeze under them.

    BAD, BAD idea. Hopefully more sensible people in DOT will realize this and are able to convince those like Charlotte's mayor that this will lead to more congestion and more crashes.

  • Scubagirl Jan 22, 2008

    This is a VERY BAD IDEA!!!!!
    People will get killed or badly hurt if this comes to pass. Got to be a better solution that won't hurt people.
    I agree with all those comments posted and their rationale so won't repeat them here.

  • elcid89 Jan 22, 2008

    Does it strike anyone as prophetic that we've, historically, made the exact same choices Atlanta made when faced with any traffic development? I guess that gives us a clear picture of where we are headed.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Jan 22, 2008

    Most new roads today are designed with enough median to add another lane if need be, but to just USE a shoulder is not a good idea. THe pavement section used on shoulder's isn't nearly the same thickness that's used on the main road in most cases, so adding the extra traffic will cause these areas to fail very soon...which will mean LOTS of maintenace issues, and this is on TOP of the logistic problems with losing the "Safe Zone" on the highways........probably going to be very problematic!

  • Adelinthe Jan 22, 2008

    And where're you going to pull your car if you have a flat or suddenly break down???

    And what lane will emergency vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, etc., use to get to an accident on the highway and possibly save lives? (Or will they just be stuck in the same traffic as everyone else?)

    This is a very bad idea. Am praying they wake up before they make this move.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • john60 Jan 22, 2008

    This is a bad idea; paved interstate shoulders are typically only 10' wide, 12-14' if there's guardrail. No one can define when 'rush hour' takes place since weather, accidents and traffic volume can all change when 'rush hour' takes place. Where does snow get put when it is plowed? How do you inform motorists when it is OK to use the shoulders?

    I hope that NCDOT comes to its senses and dumps this unsafe proposal in the wastebin where it belongs.