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Next Leg of I-540 Loop Could Be a Christmas Gift

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RALEIGH — Monday's weather provided a good day for building the Outer Loop around Raleigh. The problem is that there have been too many bad days, and now it seems the next leg of the Outer Loop will open at least three months later than expected.

The revised date also depends on good weather andthathas been very undependable lately.

Earlier in August, the Interstate 540 work crews dealt with a soggy mess. When you weigh 25,000 pounds, as some of the equipment does, and you still can not get a grip, the rain and mud have taken over.

For every day it rains, the crews are going to lose two to three days worth of work.

The North Carolina Department of Tranportation had planned to open the next leg of I-540, from Leesville Road to Creedmoor Road by October 1. Now they are ready to talk about a new date.

"If we get a couple months and we don't have the hurricanes that we had last year, I'd say around Christmas we should be opening up this road," speculates Mark Craig, a DOT resident engineer.

And what a Christmas gift I-540 would be for North Raleigh commuters.

It is designed to give better access to Research Triangle Park and to relieve strained connector routes such as Strickland Road. But if the weather continues as it has recently, commuters will have only a lump of mud in their stockings.

A lot of focus is on the recent rains, but one portion of the Outer Loop has been under construction since December of 1997. The engineers say their biggest setback occurred last year, when Hurricane Floyd's floodwaters brought work to a muddy halt.

"Just hang in there and be patient," Craig says. "We're doing the best we can. The contractor really wants to finish, the department really wants to finish, I think everybody really wants to finish and we're doing the best we can. The driving public needs to be patient. We'll finish as soon as we can and we apologize for any delays. We don't mean to do that."

The DOT depends on the fleets of heavy equipment, but the completion date depends on Mother Nature.

The DOT says good weather could accelerate work on I-540 from Creedmoor Road to Six Forks Road. With dry weather, and no hurricanes, it is possible that the Outer Loop could be open from Six Forks to I-40 by the end of this year.


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