CLAYTON, N.C. — Rush-hour congestion may have brought a little indigestion Tuesday morning for drivers who thought the opening of the Clayton Bypass in Johnston County would make their morning commute a breeze.
Traffic still crawled because, as the state Department of Transportation explained, the bypass is no fix for a heavily used Interstate 40.
On Interstate 40 speeds averaged about 30 mph at one point.
Westbound delays began just past Highway 42 and continued beyond the bypass.
That does not, however, mean the $123 million bypass, which is expected to speed thousands of vehicles around the town of Clayton every day, is not a success.
The DOT says that most of the time – about 22 hours a day – drivers could save approximately 15 minutes by taking the U.S. Highway 70 Bypass around Clayton.
The other two hours are during the morning rush hour as cars flow – often slowly – toward Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park.
The backup is, DOT says, an Interstate 40 issue and not something the bypass can help. The bypass puts drivers into the I-40 line farther east than other routes, and westbound I-40 is still westbound I-40.
DOT says the bypass is intended to ease congestion on U.S. 70, not the interstate, and to give drivers better information about their commutes so they can decide what routes to take.
That's why the bypass features the state's first fully automated speed detection system. It uses 22 sensors along the 10.7-mile road to calculate how long a driver motorists will have to certain destinations.
“We now can actually give you information to make a better decision. You can see how long it will take you to get to mile marker 306 whether you use the Clayton bypass or use U.S. 70 business,” said Kelly Damron, a DOT operations engineer.
As for the I-40 headache, there's no aspirin in sight. The state has plans to widen the section where U.S. 70 enters, but construction is unlikely to even begin before 2015. In the meantime, there is the bypass and the new data it provides.
Not everyone is satisfied, of course.
While some people providing feedback on WRAL.com agreed that I-40 is the issue, not the bypass, others were a bit upset.
One person wrote, "Kudos NCDOT! 30 miles per hour this morning would have been a blessing. It was more like 10 miles per hour."
Another added, "It shows a total lack of planning and very little intelligence on the part of those that put it together."