I-Team shines light on on-ramp signals

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It used to be something people took for granted - easy southern living, even during commute times but not anymore. (WTVD)

It used to be something people took for granted - easy southern living, even during commute times but not anymore.

"I just pass that road in the mornings," Dale Tycast said about the "Outer Loop" around Raleigh, I-540. "I'll go 10 miles out of my way if I have to."

Tycast isn't alone. Most people familiar with the morning westbound commute on I-540 might tell you the same thing.

Paul Dean works at a popular store near the access point on Six Forks Road. "I get on at Falls of Neuse and it is bumper to bumper."

Tom Davis sees it every day. He moved here in 1985 and has seen dramatic increases in north Raleigh traffic.

"All the way from the intersections at Falls of Neuse, Six Forks, and Creedmoor is just totally backed up," Davis said.

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The solution the Department of Transportation has come up with, ironically, is more stop lights. These, however, are set along on-ramps.

They regulate traffic merging onto I-540, letting on one car at a time, and - presumably - ending the bottlenecks at four main westbound access points: Leesville, Creedmoor, Six Forks, and Falls of Neuse.

"They've had these, in L.A., Atlanta, Detroit, and so forth," NC DOT spokesman Steve Abbott said, adding if it didn't make things better, other cities wouldn't do it.

"You can go to different cities and see. They've lowered crashes, they've improved travel time. And just the fact that if they didn't work, they wouldn't be in existence for 40 or 50 years in cities that have much worse traffic than we do."

The NC DOT's website showcases examples where on-ramp signals have improved, not just traffic flow, but safety, speed, and even fuel saved.

Davis lives just north of I-540 along Six Forks Road and is optimistic.

"There will probably be less of a backup and I think it'd work a lot smoother. In other words, instead of coming to a dead stop at Falls of Neuse, you'd be going 20 maybe 30 miles an hour but at least traffic is moving."

And that's the idea. The signals will be managed remotely from a central office. Signal times will be adjustable depending on traffic and will only be used during the morning commute.

Technicians are spending the next two weeks testing software; message boards will go up next week.

On September 26, those burlap bags will come off, the lights will be turned on, and we'll get to see if a "stop and go" strategy leads to a smoother ride down the road.

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