Raleigh The North Carolina Department of Transportation is urging drivers to think ahead as they begin making summer travel plans -especially if those plans have them heading near or through the Fortify I-40/I-440 work zone in Raleigh.
In the coming weeks, crews are set to begin a new phase of the massive rebuild project that will shift lanes and eventually reduce to three lanes the entire 8.5-mile stretch of Interstate 40 from U.S. 1 in Cary to the I-40/440 split. Engineers expect the work will add an average of 30 minutes to drivers' travel time and possibly even longer during bad weather or when there is an accident.
Construction for the entire Fortify project is expected to be complete by late 2016.
Whether it's for work, a concert, sporting event, festival or a trip to the beach, NCDOT and the local tourism industry are urging travelers to "know before you go."
"Raleigh is a great place to visit any time of the year, and we want to make sure people traveling here for business or vacation are aware of this project and of ways to minimize their travel impact," said Ryan Smith, director of communications for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We're continuing to partner with NCDOT to get the word out and have created our own visitor-friendly Fortify page at visitRaleigh.com."
More than 100,000 vehicles travel through the zone daily, and NCDOT wants to reduce that number by at least 30,000.
NCDOT has been working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Regional Transportation Alliance and GoTriangle, as well as others in the business community, to encourage drivers to use the Fortify project's website to find out about public transit options, change their work schedules or use alternate routes.
"The closer we get to the Fortify lane shifts on I-40, the more we want to remind people that this will have an impact on travel through and near the work zone, and urge drivers to plan ahead," NCDOT Deputy Secretary of Communications Mike Charbonneau said. "We are continuously working to share information and resources with the community to help get people where they need to go while crews work to complete this vital safety project."
Westbound I-40 motorists who use the South Saunders Street/U.S. 70/401/N.C. 50 exit (No. 298) will see a major change in the exit traffic pattern beginning Friday night.
So crews can safely do bridge and interchange work, the ramp for Exit 298-A will be closed for at least several months. All drivers on westbound I-40 who want to get on South Saunders Street, north or south, will have to use exit 298-B. At the bottom of the ramp, drivers will turn right or left at the traffic light.
A similar ramp closure and traffic shift on I-40 East at South Saunders Street is expected to happen next weekend.
Early next week, crews expect to finish resurfacing the westbound lanes of I-440. Once that is complete, they will switch over to do the same work on I-440 East. Later in the week, they plan to open the third lane of I-440 East, bringing the road to its final traffic pattern.
All work is dependent upon the weather.
For more information, on the Fortify I-40/440 Rebuild Project, visit www.fortifyNC.com or contact Mark Mueller at 919-707-2684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.