RALEIGH (WTVD) -- As the annual North Carolina State Fair opens Thursday afternoon, the North Carolina Department of Transportation says that means a lot of traffic heading for west Raleigh over the next 11 days.
The fair opens at 3 p.m. and will feature a new pavilion, along with a dozen new rides among the 95 on the midway.
Last year's fair drew more than 929,000 visitors.
The NC DOT warns the extra traffic means slow travel conditions in the area for I-40 and I-440, Wade Avenue, Blue Ridge Road, Edwards Mill Road, Trinity Road, N.C. 54 and Hillsborough Street.
Drivers not attending the fair are encouraged to avoid the area and seek alternate routes away from the fairgrounds, if possible, so you don't get caught in lengthy traffic jams.
Officials say the heaviest traffic conditions are in the late afternoons into the evening hours and all day on the two weekends of the fair.
"We advise people to pre-plan trips well in advance, be patient, and be aware of pedestrian traffic," Lt. Jeff Gordon, with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said.
The NC DOT says drivers heading to the fair from east of Raleigh or off I-95 via I-40, need to take into account the Fortify Rebuild I-40 construction project.
It has an already heavily traveled 8.5-mile stretch of the interstate in a three-lane work zone traffic pattern in both directions through south Raleigh.
Drivers can avoid going through the construction area by taking I-440 West (Exit 301) and going around north Raleigh to Wade Avenue west Exit 4-B and then using Blue Ridge Road and Edwards Mill Road exits to get to the fairgrounds area parking.
Travelers coming from the west on I-40 East should be able to avoid the Fortify work zone completely by exiting onto Wade Avenue Exit 289 and getting on Edwards Mill Road to the fair parking lots.
For those wanting to avoid traffic and parking issues, local transit agencies and Amtrak are ready to help out with park-and-ride services from numerous locations. Information for the park-and-ride trips are on the State Fair website.
GoTriangle is also offering a weekend shuttle service. Maps and other details are on the GoTriangle website.
For real-time travel information, call 511, visit the Traveler Services section of NCDOT.gov.
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NC State Fair opens today! Drivers, watch out for traffic