Traffic

Freeway detour causes concerns for Durham commuters

Posted August 31, 2011 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated August 31, 2011 7:14 p.m. EDT

Forrest Smith says he doesn't mind his drive every morning from Holly Springs to Durham.

But getting home on the southbound N.C. Highway 147, also known as the Durham Freeway, is a different story.

"One day, it's smooth as silk," he said Wednesday. "Another day, it's like taking your life in your hands."

Next Tuesday, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will permanently close a stretch of N.C. 147 that runs south of Interstate 40 to T. W. Alexander Drive.

By December, crews will have connected the Durham Freeway with the new Triangle Parkway, which is part of the larger Triangle Expressway toll road project.

Closing the so-called "spur "means drivers on the freeway will have to use I-40 , N.C. Highway 55 and N.C. Highway 54 to connect to T.W. Alexander Drive.

"That's just going to make the matter worse, because there's not going to be any place for those people to go," Smith said.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority's chief engineer, Steve DeWitt, acknowledges the trouble at the existing interchange.

"That's really not a part of what we're improving as part of this project," he said. "I think there are some issues there, long-term, that could be enhanced."

DeWitt says that once the freeway connects with the Triangle Parkway, it should clear some of the congestion.

"This road is part of a systems improvement that should help alleviate some of those things short-term," he said.

Smith is on vacation next week, so he says he won't have to deal with the first days of the new traffic pattern.

But he'll be back on the Durham Freeway the following week.

"I hope, by then, drivers have given up and found another way, but I imagine there aren't going to be any smooth days anymore," he said.