Get ready to Fortify your patience
I-440 in southeast Raleigh has been under construction for more than a year between the I-40 (Wilmington)/I-440 split and the I-495 / US 64-264 Knightdale bypass interchange as part of the initial work on the Fortify project. So far, delays have only been around four to five minutes or so — which has been a pleasant and welcome surprise for commerce and tourism.
If we have collectively been lulled into a false sense of commuting security, we are quickly approaching the time where we will need to wake up to a new peak period reality, as Fortify construction switches from I-440 to I-40 this spring.
Based on traffic models, NCDOT engineers estimate that Fortify construction in south Raleigh on the I-40 segment between US 1/64 in southwest Raleigh and the I-40 (Wilmington)/I-440 split in southeast Raleigh will add 30 minutes to a motorist’s commute going either direction during the morning or afternoon rush hour. In the case of an accident or bad weather, the delay may be even longer.
Translation: we can expect a half hour longer commute each day, twice a day. And with crashes or precipitation (or both), all bets are off.
NCDOT also notes that ways to reduce traffic congestion include finding alternate routes, taking the bus, carpooling, vanpooling or working alternate work schedules.
In a prior blog back in August, I had guessed the following about what we would see when Fortify construction switched to I-40:
- My initial sense is that typical morning backups might still be higher on I-440 (coming from Poole Road to where it meets I-40 in Southeast Raleigh) than on I-40 westbound itself in South Raleigh, due to the nature of the construction and lane arrangements, although some slowdowns near Downtown Raleigh are possible – and whenever work zone-related crashes occur.
- In fact, it would not surprise me if typical morning westbound traffic delays just west of Downtown Raleigh were to turn out to be a little better than normal, particularly between Lake Wheeler and Gorman, again due to work zone lane arrangements. Evening backups on eastbound I-40 in South Raleigh may well be a different story, particularly when work zone-related crashes occur, and of course on Friday evenings as we all head to the coast. But again, we shall see.
Some of the locations that I suggested would have relatively more or less delay may still turn out to the be the case. However, while I did not offer an expected amount of delay at that time, my guess was that our delays on I-40 would be less than ten minutes longer than normal during peak periods, unless crashes occured.
Based on what we are hearing from NCDOT, my earlier estimate, admittedly based on intuition and without the benefit of modeling, was woefully optimistic. The reality is this: based on NCDOT’s modeling and engineering consensus of expected delays, it sounds like we have a character-building commuting experience awaiting us as Fortify construction switches to I-40 this spring.
While the results are not what we were hoping for, it is far better to have a realistic sense of what is about to happen now. And, we do have options.
Remember the bus routes that some of your associates were considering trying, along with the Bus On Shoulder System (BOSS) to keep those buses moving past congestion? Now would be a great time to take another look at those.
So, get your radio presets tuned to relaxing music for your car radio (or have your iPod loaded up for your express bus ride), have a bottle of water handy, and let’s get moving, patiently.
We will all get through this together, and thanks to this very important improvement project and our friends at NCDOT, our freeway system in south Raleigh will be sufficiently fortified by late 2016.