DOT Speeds Up Plans For New I-540 Stretch

Posted February 6, 2007 7:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2007 7:48 p.m. EST

The traffic crunch on Interstate 540 merging into Interstate 40 in Wake County has been a bottleneck for countless weekday mornings.

But now relief is on the way as the Department of Transportation speeds up construction plans.

Many motorists have told the DOT that traffic jams have become unbearable.

“It's painful because you're stuck in traffic, and especially if you have somewhere to go, it's hard,” said motorist Shane Begnaud.

“I've been doing this for five years and it used to take me 25 minutes to get to work,” said motorist Mary Knight. “Now, it takes me up to 45 minutes.”

State officials said they want to open the new stretch of I-540 from I-40 at the Wake/Durham county line to N.C. Highway 54 by May -- three months ahead of schedule.

“That should help the backups in the morning that we're seeing now, and it should make a big difference,” said DOT engineer David Byrd.

The newest section of I-540 from Capital Boulevard to the U.S. Highway 64 Bypass opened last month, putting a lot more cars into the bottleneck area. Now the race is on to get the next section open to relieve the traffic strain.

However, there have been a few setbacks on the project. The DOT said someone lit a big pile of tires on fire on the unopened road recently, melting the pavement. Engineers said crews will need to replace it, but they said that won't throw off the accelerated schedule.

The rest of the new I-540 section -- from N.C. Highway 54 to N.C. Highway 55 in Research Triangle Park -- should be ready for drivers by August