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Nov
21

I-440 Widening Project Workshop Planned

I440ProjectThe Department of Transportation is beginning some big project in the next few years. Not only will I-40 along the southern edge of Raleigh and the intersection of Jones Franklin and Western Boulevard be rebuilt, DOT is also in initial stages of a widening project for the oldest section of I-440, “The Beltline”.

The DOT will host a public workshop to discuss improvements to I-440 between Walnut Street and Wade Avenue on Monday, December 3 from 4pm-7pm. The meeting will take place at the Method Community Center, Pioneer Building (514 Method Road).

The stretch of highway is the last remaining 4-lane section of I-440, and features some dangerous intersections:

  • Western Boulevard to I-440 W is a right merge into the I-440 passing lane
  • Jones Franklin Road onto I-440 E has a very short acceleration lane
  • I-440 W onto inbound Wade Avenue has a very short deceleration lane, and a tight, loop exit
  • A short, uphill acceleration lane from Outbound Western Blvd onto I-440 E
  • A cloverleaf pair of entrance/exit lanes on I-440 E at Western Blvd presenting in a short acceleration lane and a short acceleration lane, woven pair.

Challenges to the widening of this stretch include:

  • A restrictive amount of land at the I-440/Western Blvd interchange
  • Bridge overpasses by Melbourne Road, Athens Drive, and Jones Franklin Road that offer spans to short for widening. All three bridges will likely be replaced, which will solve the horribly dangerous pedestrian situation at Jones Franklin Road.

No doubt, the Western Boulevard interchange will be a complicated, expensive project. The solution will likely introduce at least one traffic signal to free-flowing traffic on Western Boulevard. Hopefully an inverted SPUI interchange will be implemented to minimize idle traffic times, but you know how traffic engineers have never met a red light they didn’t like.

The second challenge will be the Jones Franklin interchange. Jones Franklin will likely be widened south of I-440 in the moderate future, but the road crosses I-440 at an angle, and has a proximate intersection with Sumter Square apartments, complicating the intersection on the north side of the highway. A SPUI would not work here, unfortunately, so hopefully the Sumter Square access can be tied in with the exit ramp traffic from I-440 W.

For sure, there will be a lot of dirt and a lot of headaches in the coming years in southwest Raleigh. Hopefully engineers can design a solution that is not only safe, but also doesn’t create a heavy burden on traffic efficiency.

  • Steelcity36

    Finally! I thought we’d have a I-640 and I-740 before they ever finished widening this final portion of the beltline. Doing this and the “Crawleigh” project ought to be fun fover the next 10 years.

  • Owen E

    This is a hugely important project. I hope they will do it right. I have a lot to say about it.

    DOT would be well served to extend the northern terminus of this project to Lake Boone Trail. Make it 8 lanes between Lake Boone and Wade. (The outer lanes should be weave lanes between the two exits.)

    The ramp from eastbound Wade to the Inner Beltline (now I-440 E) should be a flyover. This would have the side benefit of making the northbound weave on I-440 E between the Hillsborough onramp and the Wade offramp longer. Is there money in the budget for this sort of thing though?

    The short southbound (I-440W) weave from Wade to Hillsborough will be tougher still to fix. Braided ramps would be the real solution. That would requrie taking a good deal of land from the University Club. Again, is there money?

    On Western Blvd, another stoplight won’t hurt too much. I lived on Powell Drive and drove on Western Blvd every day for years. The problem area on Western Blvd is the four lane section between Avent Ferry and Gorman; west of Gorman the congestion is less of a problem. Widen it to six lanes all the way from Blue Ridge to Avent Ferry and include double left turn queue lanes then it should be just fine. I agree though that if they try to add more than one stoplight they’re not doing it right. An excellent configuration is easy to design that adds one stoplight, increases neighborhood connectivity, doesn’t create a pedestrian purgatory like a SPUI or DDI. Here is my suggestion. The key is lining the ramps up with Blue Ridge Road on one side, and a reconnection of Lorimer Rd on the other.

    The Melbourne Road half interchange is history. Good riddance. The Lorimer Road reconnection will make it unnecessary.

    There are some big opportunities for greenway projects incidental to this. It is very likely that DOT will include a greenway tunnel to extend the Lake Johnson trail over to the Buck Jones Road area. Raleigh also has a planned greenway trail on the books along the interior of the Beltline from Lake Johnson to Western Boulevard. Maybe that could get included too. Unlikely (but would be nice), extend this trail to Hillsborough and Meredith College and connect it to the greenway there.

    Since the rest of the beltline is dark (except at interchanges) I would just as soon leave this section dark too. Less light pollution is mostly a good thing.

    There probably will be a push to build the noise walls with brick and add plants to the median and otherwise beautify it which would be nice but forced to choose I would rather spend money on getting the infrastructure right, and beautifying it later, if needed.

    • Dmccall

      Good points. Thanks so much for the thoughts. Just wanted to say that I love lighted highways and do not believe in “light pollution”. Also just wanted to note that I-440 has only E & W designations, no N or S now. Finally, I love spuis and don’t believe pedestrians are burdened in ways way with them. This is a freeway interchange, and pedestrians will only be making moves along Western, not crossing it.

      • Owen E

        Have you ever tried to walk across a SPUI? Not fun. There are so many free flowing turns and acute angles with long crossing distances that it’s really terrible. Park at the gas station at the corner of NC54 and Fayetteville Rd and then try to walk to Southpoint Mall and see how that changes your perspective.

        If you design a SPUI without the free flowing turns, then you can wind up with just as many stoplights as a folded diamond (which is what I propose.)

        Besides, if you build a SPUI, you still have the stoplight at Blue Ridge a few hundred feet to the west. So short of rebuilding the interchange as a conventional cloverleaf (with all its weave issues) you will need to have at least two stoplights regardless.

        SPUIs are also more expensive than a folded diamond interchange would be, since they require either wider bridges (standard SPUI) or longer spans (inverted SPUI).

        There’s enough foot traffic through here that we certainly shouldn’t be doing anything to make it HARDER for pedestrians to cross the beltline along Western. A standard interchange can handle plenty of traffic.

        I hear what you’re saying about the lighting and I am a bit torn. On a well designed highway, lighting doesn’t really help that much to me on an average night. The beltline is mostly lined with trees and residential areas so it doesn’t suffer as much from glare from billboards or commercial areas that distract and blind you in many other cities. The jersey barrier that they will no doubt install will block the headlights of oncoming traffic. Therefore your eyes can just get accustomed to the dark. However, regardless of the above, I do find that lighting is still helpful in inclement weather.

    • http://www.danamccall.com Dana

      Again, interesting points. I think the problem with a flyover from WadeE to 440E is the short distance between Blue Ridge’s Wade onramp and Wade’s 440W offramp.

      I do have to say that joining in Blue Ridge Road to the folded diamond is a pretty good idea (assuming that the current Blue Ridge alignment would be trashed and Wells Fargo and K Mart are down with losing 1/4 of their unused parking lot. This would keep the entire Western Blvd. stretch to just two signals. I’m not sure that Lorimer people would go for connecting to the rest of the world, but they should, especially if Melbourne Road’s interchange is removed (and it should be. I’d love to know what the traffic counts are on that bridge – probably not high enough to warrant the required rebuilding of that bridge).

      I think the section of Western between Gorman and WRAL is an important one. The city’s punishment of Hillsborough Street drivers means there are more drivers on Western Blvd now. The first thing that needs to be done is the erection of a fence down the median to stop jaywalking college students. It is a BIG problem and some student is going to be killed because they were too impatient/selfish to properly use a crosswalk. In the end, though, a tunnel would be great if it can be done, given all of the infrastructure under Western.

      The braided ramps idea is interesting, especially given that the RR tracks prevent flipping the existing folded diamond over to the south side of Hillsborough.

      Finally, I’m sure that those around the Melbourne Road intersection, especially on the north side, will get a wall. However I think I’d prefer to watch the 440 than a wall.

  • Owen E

    Somehow it says that there are 5 comments (now 6) but I only see 4 listed (now 5). Did I miss a comment somehow?

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. I’m not sure why some of my comments aren’t showing. Anyway, here goes:

    Again, interesting points. I think the problem with a flyover from WadeE to 440E is the short distance between Blue Ridge’s Wade onramp and Wade’s 440W offramp.

    I do have to say that joining in Blue Ridge Road to the folded diamond is a pretty good idea (assuming that the current Blue Ridge alignment would be trashed and Wells Fargo and K Mart are down with losing 1/4 of their unused parking lot. This would keep the entire Western Blvd. stretch to just two signals. I’m not sure that Lorimer people would go for connecting to the rest of the world, but they should, especially if Melbourne Road’s interchange is removed (and it should be. I’d love to know what the traffic counts are on that bridge – probably not high enough to warrant the required rebuilding of that bridge).

    I think the section of Western between Gorman and WRAL is an important one. The city’s punishment of Hillsborough Street drivers means there are more drivers on Western Blvd now. The first thing that needs to be done is the erection of a fence down the median to stop jaywalking college students. It is a BIG problem and some student is going to be killed because they were too impatient/selfish to properly use a crosswalk. In the end, though, a tunnel would be great if it can be done, given all of the infrastructure under Western.

    The braided ramps idea is interesting, especially given that the RR tracks prevent flipping the existing folded diamond over to the south side of Hillsborough.

    Finally, I’m sure that those around the Melbourne Road intersection, especially on the north side, will get a wall. However I think I’d prefer to watch the 440 than a wall.

    Traffic engineers in Raleigh are swiftly moving toward creating more and more inefficient traffic flow. Unfortunately Raleigh is moving toward being a stagnating obstacle course of traffic signals and hard turns while places like Greensboro continue with efficiently flowing corridors through the heart of the city. A design that presents two additional traffic signals on Western Boulevard is a step in the wrong direction. They need to figure out a way to make only one additional signal.

  • Owen E

    CAMPO is studying a Western Blvd pedestrian tunnel right now. Web page here.

    The only time K-mart uses more than 10% of their parking lot is at the State Fair. They only maintain (pave/stripe) about 1/4 of it. I can’t imagine they would object too much to selling some of it. That Wells Fargo building is a dump. They could rebuild on the new lot that would be created when the current Blue Ridge Road right-of-way is abandoned.

    As for the Lorimer intersection, I see what you’re saying about NIMBYs not wanting the connection. The easy answer is: don’t want it connected to Lorimer? Then Don’t build it. Still put the Western Blvd on/off ramps in the same spot. But regardless of the interchange configuration, there needs to be a continuous sidewalk on both sides of Western, from Jones Franklin all the way to Boylan.

    Something else needed is an extension of the left turn lane from Western to Method. Nearly every signal cycle, at all times of day, people waiting to turn left there spill beyond the end of the queue.

    As for the flyover, I agree there’s there’s not enough space between Blue Ridge and the Beltline. Heck, there’s barely enough space as there is. So: turn the Blue Ridge interchange into a folded diamond as well.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with 100% of your comments here. I’d also add that the left turn queue on Wade onto Ridge needs to be extended. (should have been done with all of the sidewalk implementation work, really, though I realize these are from different pockets of city money)

  • Owen E

    The more I look at it the more it becomes clear that, short of eliminating the Hillsborough Street exit outright (BAD idea) NCDOT will wind up implementing some sort of collector/distributor configuration to solve the short weave between between Wade and Hillsborough. Braided ramps, flyovers, it all sounds well and good until you realize it’s NCDOT we’re talking about and they usually have a very limited budget for urban projects.

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