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The state Department of Transportation says it will continue for the next several years an unusual traffic lane change put in place last September as an experiment on westbound Interstate 40 at the U.S. 70 Clayton Bypass:
To make the morning rush hour run more smoothly, DOT closed one of three lanes on I-40 and one of two lanes on U.S. 70 as it merges with I-40. The lane slimming was called temporary in September, but DOT will install lane markings to make it semi-permanent on Wednesday. Traffic studies indicate that the morning drive runs a bit smoother and faster with two lanes than it did with three lanes.
What happened? DOT added a third lane for a two-mile stretch of I-40 when it built the new U.S. 70 bypass interchange there in 2008. This created a rush-hour bottleneck caused by drivers who move into the new lane as it opens up and then try to squeeze back into line in the other two lanes, when the third lane ends. So in a very short distance, you had two lanes from the U.S. 70 on-ramp and three lanes of I-40 -- five lanes in all -- squeezing back into two lanes.
The long-term solution is to widen I-40 permanently, from U.S. 70 all the way west to the U.S. 70 Business interchange, where it becomes three lanes wide for good. DOT now is scheduled to start construction on this long-needed widening project (I-5111) at the U.S. 70 Bypass in late 2016. Once the new lanes are installed, by 2021, the lanes that were closed in September will be open again.