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On time and on budget, NCDOT says it has finished a key $49 million project that opened up the Triangle's worst bottleneck by adding two lanes to a busy stretch of Interstate 40 in Cary and West Raleigh.
That's good news for commuters. The six-lane freeway has room for more traffic in both rush-hour directions -- westbound is the heaviest in the morning, and eastbound in the evening.
DOT has learned there's a wrong way to widen I-40, and a right way. This one looks like the right way.
The new layout also should reduce confusion and accidents at the hectic split between eastbound I-40 and Wade Avenue.
Now the three left lanes are more clearly marked than ever before as I-40, not only with overhead signs but also with bright red-and-blue interstate highway crest signs embedded in the pavement. The two right lanes (one lane is just an extension from the Harrison Avenue off ramp) are both marked for Wade Avenue.
How does it work for you? Has it cut a few minutes off your daily drive to work and home again?
Wake County officials had lobbied for eight lanes, but NCDOT said the high cost would force a long postponement of much needed improvements. So they agreed on six lanes, but they made provisions for expansion to eight lanes in the future.
New 12-foot paved shoulders are wide enough to accommodate added lanes in the future, and the new bridges and overpasses also were built wide enough for eight lanes.
The project work caused less traffic disruption and delay than DOT's I-40 widening in Durham County eight years ago, because of smarter construction techniques that reduced the need for closing highway lanes. And this time, DOT folks were smart enough not to use that badly engineered concrete that began crumbling almost as soon as it was laid on I-40 in Durham County. It had to be dug out and replaced.
On the Wake County I-40 project they used good (we hope) asphalt.