I-40 A Virtual Weekend Parking Lot
Posted May 31, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
CARY — The theory is that when you are on a road, you are going somewhere. That wasn't the case for lots of motorists this weekend on a stretch of westbound I-40 near the Harrison Avenue interchange.
Roadwork required that only one lane of three be left open in each direction. Such projects generally get into high gear over weekends and late at night so that fewer drivers are affected.
But this past weekend hundreds of motorists seemed not to have gotten the message that state transportation officials have been sending: construction on the Harrison Avenue bridge will create traffic tie-ups.
So hundreds of Sunday drivers inched through hot traffic along the major Triangle artery. And when some of them could reach a phone, they called the Highway Patrol for help.
By 3 p.m. the avalanche of calls had led to DOT opening all the lanes and sending construction workers home.
This part of I-40 handles about 120,000 vehicles a day. A good portion of that traffic accesses and leaves I-40 by way of the Harrison Avenue bridge, a two-lane roadway. Experts had feared the narrow bridge could no longer support the 35,000 vehicles that use it daily, so the $2.2 million bridge-widening began in 1996. It is the work on that project that created the snarl.
DOT officials have scheduled lane closings all day on weekends and from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays.
They are hoping that Sunday's traffic jam was a random event.