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Ramp meters could be answer to Triangle traffic woes

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is looking into the installation of ramp meters, which are signals along interstate ramps that control merging traffic.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s rush hour on Interstate 40 at Jones Sausage Road in Garner, and several vehicles are trying to merge into the busy traffic at the same time.

The brake lights flash, which state Department of Transportation engineer Kevin Lacy says is bad news for drivers.

“That's costing you more time to get home. That's costing everybody behind you more time to get home,” he said.

But Lacy said there is a solution that would keep traffic merging safely and smoothly – ramp meters.

A common sight in larger cities such as Atlanta, ramp meters are signals installed about halfway along interstate ramps that control merging traffic. Drivers stop at the red light and wait a few seconds for it to turn green, so one vehicle merges at a time.

“It is exactly what it sounds like,” Lacy said. “It meters the traffic coming down a ramp onto a freeway.”

NCDOT has identified several interchanges around the Triangle where it believes ramp metering can help. They include:

• From Miami Blvd. to I-40 east
• From inbound Western Boulevard To I-440 west
• From Leesville Road to I-540 east
• From Aviation Parkway to I-40 east
• From Harrison Avenue to I-40 east
• From inbound Glenwood to 440 west
• From N.C. Highway 55 to I-40 east and west
• From Page Road to I-40 east
• From Jones Sausage Rd. to I-40 west
• From U.S. Highway 15-501 to I-40 west

• From Davis Drive to I-40 east

Lacy said ramp metering in the Triangle is inevitable.

“What ramp metering allows you to do is get a little bit more performance out of your existing facilities,” he said. “That saves taxpayers money and, hopefully, keeps traffic flowing more smoothly on the interstate.”

Some drivers aren't so sure it will work.

“Most people are nice and let multiple cars go,” motorist Sadie Burch said.

Lacy says drivers shouldn’t worry. Ramp metering works all over the world, he said, and it will work here.

“We've got a pretty smart group of folks in North Carolina,” Lacy said. “I think we'll fall right in line.”


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