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Portrait of a Commute: How Long Is Yours?

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RALEIGH — In the last few years,traffic in the Trianglehas increased dramatically, especially coming in and out of Research Triangle Park. Every day thousands of Triangle residents get into their cars for the commute to work; eight or nine hours later they face the return trip. Tag along with the experts as they try to avoid the commuter crunch. Where are the trouble spots?When Ehren Lerch drives from North Raleigh to his job in Research Triangle Park, he never knows what he'll find on I-40 at Miami Boulevard.

"It's always a mess right around here," he says. "If there's a wreck or some kind of tie-up it could be an hour easy." How does traffic here compare to other places?Mike Evans is used to traffic. He moved to Cary from Chicago five years ago. But Evans is still amazed by how difficult the commute to RTP can be.

He calls it "extremely frustrating, some days 40 doesn't even move...I see an opening, I get in it," Evans says. Does it get any easier?Janet Player has been commuting between Creedmoor and RTP for 17 years and she has seen a lot of changes.

"I avoided 85 for a long time because of theconstruction," she says. "That was a nightmare."

Still, "there's no easy way out of here," Player says. "Nobody would believe it unless you were in it."

When traffic comes to a dead stop on I-40 it is not unusual to see people trying to make the best use of their time. What do you do when you're stuck in traffic?Ehren Lerch sees people preparing for the day ahead. "Breakfast, shaving, I even saw a guy brushing his teeth on his way to work," Lerch says.

Mike Evans does too. "See a lot of people putting on their makeup, talking on the phone, a lot of people reading," he says.

Janet Player has even made friends while stuck in traffic. "Sometimes you can strike up a conversation with the person next to you, I've done that!" she says. What do you do to beat the traffic?Ehren Lerch says radiotraffic reportshelp him avoid big delays. He uses the reports to "try to figure out exactly what routes to take."

Janet Player relies on back ways to avoid traffic tie-ups. "You find every littleshortcutin the world," she says. And she's not talking. "We won't share them because we don't want to cause a traffic jam!"

Mike Evans works a flexible schedule so that he doesn't have to travel during peak traffic hours.

"I finally adjusted my schedule," he says. "I spend as little time behind the wheel as I have to."

Still, there's no way to completely avoid the traffic. Commuters say it's just part of life in the Triangle, a part they hope won't get any worse.

"Just deal with it, what else are you going to do?" asks Ehren Lerch. Move?"I like the area here, so it's worth it to me," Evans says.

Player sums it up best. "Everyday I go to RTP and come back, I am grateful to roll up in this driveway."

There's no place like home, however long it takes to get there.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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