Raleigh Commuters heading through the Fortify work zone should be mindful of continuing changes in the traffic pattern along the 8.5-mile stretch of I-40 being rebuilt in south Raleigh.
It was just a week ago that lane reductions between Lake Wheeler Road and the I-40/I-440 split went into place, putting all traffic on the eastbound side into three lanes. Westbound traffic was also reduced to three lanes with the exception of a short section near the split that has temporarily remained four lanes.Next up are lane shifts taking place along the same stretch of highway.
Overnight on Thursday, the three lanes of eastbound traffic on I-40 were moved over one lane to the right between South Saunders Street and Hammond Road, putting the outside lane on the repaved and strengthened shoulder. A similar shift from Hammond Road to Garner Road is planned for Friday night. The new pattern will eventually reach east of Rock Quarry Road.
Once shoulder paving and strengthening are complete in the next few weeks on I-40 West, the same type of shift will take place between the I-40/I-440 split and Lake Wheeler Road.
Paying attention to these new patterns becomes especially important starting next week. Traffic is expected to increase along I-40 as summer nears the end and children in traditional-calendar schools head back to class. More buses, parents and teenage drivers will be on I-40 as well as the side roads that feed into the interstate.
The increase in traffic volume could provide the first look the actual impact on congestion from Fortify. It is projected that, in ideal travel conditions, it could take up to an extra 30 minutes each way during morning and afternoon rush hours to travel through the work zone. Travel times could be longer during bad weather or road interruptions caused by a crash or disabled vehicle in the travel lanes.
Consideration of alternate routes becomes more important with the increased traffic volume. Drivers needing to go through the entire length of the work zone can, instead, take I-440 to connect back to I-40 on the other side of the project.
Public transit also remains a key option to avoid being stuck in rush-hour traffic. GoSmart (formerly GoTriangle) offers express routes between downtown Raleigh and other areas of Wake and Johnston counties. Another way to avoid traffic is for drivers to telecommute or shift their work schedules.The most important thing for drivers in dealing with the project is to pay attention and slow down. With changes in the traffic pattern still coming, they need to be remain aware of travel conditions.
FortifyNC.com and @FortifyNC on Twitter offer real-time traffic condition and updates through and around the work zone.