NCDOT announces widening of I-440, Raleigh Beltline

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I-440 improvements can't come soon enough for commuters.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that the long-awaited widening of the western section of the Raleigh Beltline is expected to begin in 2018.

The stretch of I-440 from Wade Avenue to Walnut Street in Cary is the only section of the 26-mile beltline that is not three lanes in both directions.

That four-mile segment is just two lanes each way.

According to NCDOT, rush hour in that area causes some of the worst traffic problems in the Triangle.

"It's horrible; things need to be done," said commuter Bahati Mathias. "The traffic's huge and you have to wake up two hours prior for you to get where you have to be."

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When Mathias heard the plans are finally being put in place to widen that stretch, she was ecstatic.

Mathias threw her hands in the air and exclaimed, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! That's going to make my life even better and everybody else's."

NCDOT officials said that stretch of the beltline, built in the early 1960's, not only has infrastructure problems but is dangerous.

"The crash rates along this section of 440 are about three times the statewide average for similar interstates in urban areas," said engineer Joey Hopkins during an afternoon news conference at NCDOT headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

He told reporters that much like the current Fortify construction project on the southern beltline, two lanes in each direction will be maintained during most of the construction.

But he said there will be occasional lane closures on nights and weekends.

He also announced that the organization wants the public's input before soliciting bids for the project in early summer of 2018.

An open house and public hearing will be held on August 8 at the McKimmon Center on Western Boulevard in Raleigh.

Hopkins hopes citizens will be receptive and patient.

"Everybody recognizes the need for the project," he said. "We all know how bad it is today. And with the population growth in the Triangle and the traffic growth we're seeing and will continue to see, I think people will see that. They'll see the benefit, the need for the project."

The I-Team has also learned about another construction project in the works. NCDOT will also widen an 11-mile stretch of I-40 from Raleigh to the Cleveland School area (around N.C. 42) in Clayton. The project is set to start in 2018 as well. For more information, check out NCDOT's website.

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