DOT Eyes Shoulders for Extra Highway Lanes

Posted January 21, 2008 6:25 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2008 6:50 p.m. EST

— State transportation officials are considering opening the shoulders of major North Carolina highway to rush-hour traffic to ease congestion.

Department of Transportation crews are surveying stretches of interstate in Charlotte to open shoulders for traffic. DOT officials said they aren't looking at doing this in the Triangle, but they would be willing to consider it for Interstate 40.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory broached the subject last week during a debate between the four Republican candidates for governor.

"I would use the shoulders of the road immediately and get out of this frame-set during rush hour for areas like I-40 here (in Raleigh and) I-77 in my area," McCrory said.

DOT engineers said the idea is easier said than done. The lengthy process includes getting Federal Highway Administration approval, they said.

Engineers said they also must ensure there's enough room along the shoulder to add another lane for regular traffic, that there's enough clearance along the shoulder for large trucks to pass under every overpass and that using shoulders for traffic wouldn't adversely affect entrance and exit ramps.

Van Carver, who regularly drives on I-40, said the issue of having enough room for disabled cars and emergency vehicles is the issue that concerns him most about allowing regular traffic on highway shoulders.

"I saw someone drive into the back of a parked car on the highway," Carver said. "The emergency lane should be used by emergency vehicles only."

But Cary resident Art Clark said the state needs to take some action to relieve congestion on I-40.

"Something needs to be done, some planning. Somebody needs to look at an alternative to what we have now. To keep going the way we are now, it's going to get worse and worse," Clark said.