DOT Taking More Time to Study I-40/I-540 Bottleneck

Posted August 24, 2007 12:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 24, 2007 7:49 p.m. EDT

— Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Friday that they need more time to study a traffic bottleneck at Interstates 540 and 40 in Wake County.

"Any time you have the summer and vacations, you are going to have 5, 10 percent of people that are out any given week," said DOT division engineer Wally Bowman.

"So, school is back in session now, and you have additional drivers out there, and we need to take a look at those backups and see if they are backing up worse," he said.

Motorists started complaining last month of long lines on the ramp from I-540 south to westbound I-40 after the DOT opened a 4.5-mile extension of I-540 called N.C. Highway 540. It was was supposed to ease congestion and give drivers more options for getting into Research Triangle Park.

Prior to N.C. 540's opening, there were two collector lanes for much of the length of the I-540 approach to westbound I-40. They eventually narrowed to one lane. Crews eliminated one of the lanes, however, leaving one going to both westbound and eastbound I-40.

Last month, DOT officials admitted engineers should have looked at ways to avoid the problem and said it would monitor the lane. Engineers installed traffic counters in the area and have recorded more than 24,000 vehicles daily over the past month.

There has been no clear timetable on when the study will be complete. Possible long-term solutions include adding another lane leading up to the ramp and building a second ramp lane.

In the meantime, the DOT is putting together informational maps to help navigate the new N.C. 540 exits, which only about 4,500 drivers used.

Motorists were unhappy to hear of the DOT's need for more time to study things, however.

"It takes about 10 seconds to figure this one out," said motorist Charles Webb. "It didn't work. It was a bad idea. It really was."

"They just need to really do something about it so that we can get where we need to go very fast," said another motorist, Lashuane Wise.

Bowman said there are ways to avoid the bottleneck.

"If you are currently taking Page Road off to I-40 into RTP on the southern side, try N.C. 540 down to N.C. Highway 54, and then come up Page Road and go in that way," he said. "And I think, overall, you'll see your travel time would be reduced."