Durham Officials Put Brakes on I-85 Shutdown

Posted July 17, 2007 6:28 p.m. EDT

— City officials scrambled Tuesday morning to stop what they said was a two-hour closure of Interstate 85 later in the day.

City Manager Patrick Baker said he was shocked to hear the state Department of Transportation and telecommunications company Verizon wanted to block all northbound and southbound lanes between Duke Street and the Durham Freeway from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday to lay some fiber-optic lines across the highway.

"I immediately saw some serious concerns, namely, a lack of notice," Baker said.

A Verizon spokesman said the company left a message with the Durham Police Department's communications division at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to notify police about the project.

The spokesman and a DOT spokesman both said Durham police misunderstood the message and blew the shutdown out of proportion. They said there were no plans for a two-hour shutdown, only a slow-rolling project that would have taken place in two 10-minute intervals between 2 and 4 p.m.

Baker insisted city officials didn't get anything wrong.

"The bottom line is there should've been plenty of notice. This isn't something you just make a call on (in the) morning under any circumstances," he said.