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Progress on Major Road Projects Slow, but Moving Ahead

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RALEIGH — Triangle commuters feel the pain of roads that have not kept up with the the area's rapid growth. Help is on the way. Here is an update on some major roadwork taking place across the Triangle. Interstate 540: The Outer LoopThe Outer Loop, commonly known as Interstate 540, has been a long-time coming. With the first leg from Interstate 40 to Highway 70 finished, engineers say they will have traffic moving to Leesville Road by late this year.

The section from Leesville to Falls of Neuse should be ready by the end of the year. Then over to Capital Boulevard in early 2002.

There are no promises yet on the remaining portions that would make 540 a continuous loop -- designed to relieve congestion on the beltline, and give commuters another way to access Research Triangle Park.

Every road expert WRAL has talked to calls the I-540 project the most significant road project in the Triangle. But what about the driving experts, the commuters. What are their priorities?

"You have thousands and thousands of employees coming in [to RTP] between 7:30 and nine o'clock on a one-lane road. It's insane," says commuter Karen Thomas.

"We need some more roads that give us access between the major roads," says commuter Red Cloud.

"Davis Drive at Highway 55. That's like a nightmare coming from that area towards RTP. People [are] sitting there banging their steering wheel. They can't go anywhere," says commuter Naeem Massey. Highway 55 Widening to Interstate 40Construction is just beginning on widening Highway 55 from Fuquay-Varina to Interstate 40. It is not a quick fix.

Engineers say transforming Highway 55 into a four-lane divided highway will take at least until 2006. US 64 Bypass"[Highway] 64, I think, for all the use it gets, really needs to have some work done on it. I live right on it. I use it a lot," says commuter Mary Pat McCoy.

The brake lights flare every morning on US 64 from Knightdale to the beltline. TheDepartment of Transportationis working on plans to build theUS 64 Bypass, taking commuters off the existing highway loaded with stop lights and access points.

The bypass will stretch from a new interchange at 440 to 64 Business in Knightdale. Preliminary work is just beginning, engineers hope to start construction by 2002. US 401 WideningTraffic on US 401 in Wake County bottlenecks almost every morning. Engineers have improved the early commute by widening 401 from Capital Boulevard to New Hope Road.

Now they are working the busy section from New Hope to Mitchell Mill Road. The widening should be finished by June 2001. Interstate 85 Interchanges & WideningAnother frustrating spot for drivers is Interstate 85 through Durham County. There has not been a significant improvement project along the crowded corridor since 1959.

A seven-year construction effort has just started. Interchanges will be improved, and the roadway widened from US 70 to Highway 15-501. Prioritizing ProjectsThe DOT says there are dozens of roads that need work, but the state has priorities.

"The selection process for projects gives a lot of consideration to traffic patterns, traffic volumes, and population growth. We try to meet the needs of the most commuters," says DOT Construction Engineer Tracy Parrot.

If your commuter route needs work, the DOT is ready to listen, but may not deliver as soon as you like.

If you want to comment on road construction or where you think road work is needed, you can call the DOT's customer service hotline at1-877-DOT-4YOU.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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