Triangle drivers could see less congestion when road crews begin overhauling an 11.5-mile stretch of Interstates 40 and 440 early in 2014, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Tuesday.
DOT crews and construction crews from Granite Construction Company and RS&H Architect-Engineers-Planners, Inc. will work to keep three lanes of Interstate 40 open in both directions throughout the entire project, dubbed the I-40/I440 Rebuild.
Officials had previously estimated that only two lanes in each direction would stay open.
The extra lane could alleviate traffic headaches and delays for the approximately 110,000 drivers who travel the roadway each day.
Officials said Tuesday that work will be done in phases, with construction on the I-440 leg of the project set to begin in January 2014. Once that work is done, the work on Interstate 40 will begin in earnest. Officials said Tuesday they hope to have all work completed by the end of August 2016.
Transportation Secretary Tony Tata also announced that the project will cost significantly less money, as the design-build team of Granite/RS&H submitted a $130 million bid, down more than $60 million from DOT's initial estimates.
Prior to awarding the contract, the DOT said Tata also had engineers and outside consultant groups review road conditions along the southern stretch of I-40/I-440, safety impacts for local drivers and traffic impact of the project, which will take more than two years.
"The department needed to ensure we're taking the right steps on a project that will impact nearly everyone that lives in, works in or travels through Wake County," Tata said in a statement. "The additional work has verified this section of I-40 is a present-day safety issue."
A DOT pavement specialist said in February that the work is a necessary inconvenience because the roads were constructed in the 1980s using paving materials that react negatively to long-term exposure to water and breaks the cement.
Officials plan to use digital message signs to keep drivers updated on travel times and provide real-time information to help them make decisions about alternates to I-40, such as U.S. Highway 70 Business to Hammond Road or Wilmington Street to get into downtown Raleigh or Interstate 540 to get around the I-40 congestion.
The DOT also announced on Tuesday that it will allocate up to $12 million to create a park-and-ride system and bus routes from Johnston County into Raleigh and increase frequency on current bus routes throughout the entire project.