NCDOT study looks at possibility of express lanes on I-40

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — With more and more people moving to the Triangle, getting where you need to go is getting more and more difficult.

The state is looking at how to ease congestion on the roads with the potential of adding express lanes.

Communities are providing feedback to the NCDOT on a preliminary feasibility study, which a contractor completed for the department about express lanes on I-40 from the I-85 interchange to Wade Avenue. Cary’s Town Council sent feedback to the agency during a meeting Thursday.

A spokesman for the DOT stressed this is very early in the process, but some drivers are hopeful it’s something that will eventually happen to help ease the congestion on I-40.

“You’d be backed up an for an hour, an hour and 45 minutes sometimes just trying to get to this side of town,” said Dasha Bravo, of Cary.

The study notes the population in the Triangle is expected to more than double in the next 30 years.

“High-growth area, people want to be here, express lanes are a concept that will allow us to create options, provide choices for travelers, particularly during rush hour periods,” said Joe Milazzo, executive director of the Regional Transportation Alliance.

Milazzo’s group has been studying express lanes, hopeful they could be constructed throughout the region to ease the burden on drivers.

“If people wanted to use it, they would have that option. Other people who may not want to use it on a particular trip, they would continue simply in the lanes they already are,” said Milazzo.

The study completed for the NCDOT looked at the impacts of adding one or two “managed lanes with value pricing” on each side of I-40.

The researchers found the lanes would ease congestion both for people who choose to use them and those who don’t.

The researchers recommend having two managed lanes in each direction, noting it would be 4.4 percent more expensive than constructing one lane. “Given the existing conditions on this section of I-40, major reconstruction of much of the infrastructure is needed to accommodate either the one or two managed lanes per direction,” they write.

If the DOT decides to move forward with the concept, there would be a lengthy study period looking at environmental impacts and a variety of other issues. The cost of the lanes is expected to range from $1.05 billion to $1.09 billion, according to the feasibility study.

“I travel to some other major cities that have those, and they seem to work pretty well. And, that helps traffic move a lot better,” said Nick Ditcheos of Cary.

This concept has been controversial in the Charlotte area.

The state has already awarded a contract to construct the lanes on I-77, but a group called “Widen I-77” is trying to stop it, calling the lanes expensive and ineffective.

Some state lawmakers filed bills this week to cancel the contract, but the state would have to pay a penalty up to $300 million to do so.

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