New 'N.C. 540' Likely to Open for RTP Access Next Week

Posted July 5, 2007 12:43 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2007 10:22 a.m. EDT

— The newest section of Interstate 540 loop is expected to open by late next week, highway engineers said Thursday – but not by that name.

Contractors have been working on the $102 million, 4.5-mile stretch of highway since February 2004. Stretching south from I-40 to N.C. 55, the road will go by the handle "N.C. 540."

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority asked the state Department of Transportation not to call the new section an "interstate" because they hope to open the proposed Triangle Expressway in a few years as a toll road. The toll road would overlap N.C. 540 between N.C. 54 and N.C. 55.

Area drivers said they were eagerly awaiting the new section of N.C. 540, which is expected to alleviate some morning congestion on I-40. Tens of thousands of cars now squeeze into one lane on I-540 every morning in order to enter I-40.

"It happens all the time. It's very frustrating, very frustrating. Hopefully, they'll have it all resolved very soon," driver Karen Bigler said.

The new highway will have interchanges at N.C. 54, Davis Drive and N.C. 55, creating three more ways for motorists to access Research Triangle Park without mixing with traffic on I-40.

DOT engineers were conducting a final inspection of the new highway Thursday morning, including measuring the height of guardrails and ensuring reflectors were properly glued into the pavement.

"We (will) generate a list for the contractor to complete the final items on the project," DOT engineer Phillip Johnson said. "It's looking real good. We've got some things to do, some minor cleanup, some drainage issues, but nothing major."

Engineers said they expect to open the highway between Thursday and Saturday of next week.