Raleigh - Three of the state's biggest highway projects this year are in the Triangle area and north near the Virginia border, and each are prime examples of the goals Governor Pat McCrory outlined in his 25-Year Vision for transportation.
The I-40 Fortify rebuild in Raleigh, the I-85 improvements in Vance and Warren counties, and the East End Connector in Durham each saw significant progress in 2016. They will enhance mobility for commuters and freight, while also improving safety and reducing congestion. These benefits are cornerstones of the governor's 25-Year Vision.
The highest profile project is the Fortify rebuild of I-40 over an 8 -mile stretch through south Raleigh. Motorists benefited from the three brand new lanes that opened in 2016 for almost the entire length of the project.
As the work gets closer to completion in the new year, drivers will see even more improvements. The only old roadway still in use as 2016 comes to a close is on I-40 East in the eastern end of the project, and in both the east and westbound lanes near the I-440/U.S. 1/64 interchange in Cary. That will change early in 2017 as the final traffic shifts to the inside lanes take place.
When the outside lanes are rebuilt and the entire stretch of roadway opens to traffic later in the year, the ride will get even smoother when contractors add a final top layer of asphalt, complete with permanent lane markings and reflectors to improve safety.
Another project a lot of motorists have viewed close-up is the ongoing work to improve 20.6 miles of I-85 between Dabney Road in Vance County and the Virginia state line. In addition to repairing the deteriorating road surface, bridges on I-85 are being replaced, and bridges over the interstate are being improved, including raising the clearance on several of them to help prevent truck-bridge collisions.
Although the project initially inconvenienced many drivers because of the congested work zone, transportation crews removed the two lane, two way-traffic pattern that had caused the delays by Thanksgiving. Traffic returned to its normal pattern in time to make traveling for the holidays less stressful.
This I-85 corridor is a key connector for travelers and commercial trucking that links the cities of the Mid-Atlantic and northeast United States to the Triangle, Triad, Charlotte and Atlanta. With traffic projected to increase by more than 60 percent along this corridor in the coming years, these improvements are essential to support freight movement and better connect people to their jobs, education, healthcare and recreation centers.
It is reaching those same goals set by the governor that also makes the East End Connector a heavily anticipated project in Durham and for communities along the I-85 corridor into Virginia. Being built on mostly new ground on the east side of the city, this project is approaching the halfway point in construction. Drivers in the area saw considerable progress in 2016 with roadway paths cleared and bridge structures going up.
Although just 3.9 miles of roadway, the East End Connector is expected to spur economic growth along the I-85 corridor toward Virginia. It will provide a direct interstate connection between I-85 and I-40, the Triangle Expressway and U.S. 1, and will improve access to major employment and retail centers, including the Research Triangle Park, Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Wake County.
2017 will be a year of innovation for drivers who use I-540 in North Raleigh. They will become the first users of on-ramp signals, or meters, in the state. Aimed at helping to improve traffic flow during peak commute times, work is underway on installing stop-and-go lights on four westbound entrance ramps.
The ramp meters will operate similar to traffic signals, and will control the pace of vehicles merging onto the interstate on an as-needed basis. Metering or spacing out merging vehicles will improve congestion, provide more reliable travel times for motorists and improve safety by reducing crashes along I-540.
If proven to be successful on I-540, the department will likely employ this same technology in other Triangle locations as well as major traffic areas across the state.
Customers of the Triangle Expressway will get another interchange option early in 2017, with the opening of the Veridea Parkway interchange, located between U.S. 1 and N.C. 55 Bypass in Holly Springs. Transportation officials expect to award a contract late in the year for another new Expressway interchange as Morrisville Parkway is extended in western Cary.
Drivers in the Cary and Morrisville areas dealing with the growing congestion along the N.C. 54 corridor will be glad to see a contract awarded in 2017 to extend McCrimmon Parkway between Airport Boulevard and Aviation Parkway. Plans call for a four-lane, median-divided roadway with multi-use paths and bike lanes. The department is partnering with the Town of Morrisville for the project, with the Town already constructing the portion between N.C. 54 and Airport Boulevard.