Drive the Durham Freeway? NCDOT explains why construction is delayed

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
NC 147 delays continue to frustrate drivers
NC 147 delays continue to frustrate drivers

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- This is a stretch of road that drivers will have to keep their hands on at "9 and 3."

The North Carolina Department of Transportation said a major segment of the East End Connector project on the Durham Freeway won't finish until at least July - two months behind schedule.

"We know it's inconvenient," NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbot told the ABC11 I-Team. "But we think people are going to very much enjoy when it's done."

According to Abbot, the prolonged rainfall from several spring storms prevented crews from key phases of construction on Highway 147 between Ellis Road and downtown Durham. The roughly four-mile stretch has seen lane shifts, tight jersey barriers and slight grade changes during the last two years.

Engineers estimate 76,000 vehicles travel that corridor between Raleigh and Durham every day.

"You can't pave when it's wet out," Abbot said. "You can't put lane stripes down when it's wet or raining or anything like that. We're safety above everything else."

To ensure safety -- and space for construction crews -- the corridor has been squeezed into two narrow lanes, eliminating a shoulder and break-down lane. The NCDOT has not immediately returned an ABC11 request for crash data, but officials blame many flat tires, cars running out of gas, general breakdowns and fender bender type incidents causing backups. They are usually quick to clear, one engineer notes, but they reduce traffic flow to one lane until help arrives.

"Slow down and be patient," Abbot said. "Don't be distracted. Ideally you're leaving space between the vehicle in front of you and your vehicle."

The full East End Connector project, which adds links between 147, I-85 and US-70, is expected to wrap in May 2020.5342142