– by Joe Milazzo II, PE, RTA Executive Director
Here at your friendly neighborhood Regional Transportation Alliance, we push for major regional projects including the completion of 540, the reconstruction of I-40, the Triangle Connector to I-85, a comprehensive enhanced regional transit system, and many more.
These and many other large initiatives are all critical projects that will move our region forward, literally and figuratively.
However, sometimes it is the smallest improvement that can make a big difference to many people, every day.
Take the recent widening of the Harrison Avenue eastbound on-ramp to I-40. At the Harrison interchange, three of the four ramps were already multi-lanes and had been for some time. The potential for widening the single lane eastbound on-ramp was an opportunity that emerged through the I-40 Regional Partnership. The partnership is a cooperative initiative of the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT), the Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA), and other area partners that maintains an ongoing focus on the viability of I-40.
Back in 2010, I-40 partnership volunteers reviewed every interchange on I-40 between I-85 and I-95 for potential low-cost improvement opportunities and identified a potential upgrade at Harrison which would involve repurposing the existing shoulders and adding a small amount of pavement to facilitate merging. NCDOT subsequently advanced this improvement – along the lines of an earlier improvement at the I-40 / NC 54 interchange in southwestern Durham – and completed it earlier this month.
As travelers become more aware of the extra lane,
it should improve lane balance on northbound Harrison approaching I-40 by making it easier for travelers to reach the Interstate, and it could also facilitate the future introduction of a peak period ramp metering signal at that location. While this improvement was identified well in advance of announcements such as MetLife in northern Cary, it will nonetheless help travelers leaving that campus and nearby offices on Weston Parkway.
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Another example of small projects making a difference is the recent restriping of the NC 54 interchange between Raleigh and Cary. Also identified during the I-40 Regional Partnership interchange reviews a few years ago, this improvement enables right-turning travelers who are entering I-40 west from Raleigh or I-40 east from Cary to continue to the interstate on-ramp without being impeded by travelers heading to the loop ramps across the bridge towards the opposite direction on I-40.
The improvement at the NC 54 interchange was implemented in conjunction with a recent repaving of NC 54 in west Raleigh, and some additional modifications are forthcoming. NCDOT Division 5 Traffic staff is coordinating with Town of Cary staff regarding some added signing and/or pavement markings to help ensure that travelers know that the far right lane in each direction prior to the I-40 bridge is reserved for right turns only.
The upgrades to both the Harrison Avenue and NC 54 interchanges are simple, low-cost improvements that will save time and aggravation for travelers. Our organization exists to improve the quality of life for travelers in this market, and these are the sort of enhancements that should make all of us smile. Kudos to NCDOT!
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