The construction of a big highway interchange south of Raleigh reaches a milestone Wednesday with the closure of a ramp that will send some drivers on a detour for more than a year.
The looping ramp that carries traffic from westbound U.S. 70 to eastbound Interstate 40 will close permanently Wednesday morning, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. It will eventually be replaced with a new ramp, but that process will take about 14 months, according to NCDOT.
In the meantime, drivers wishing to go from westbound U.S. 70 to eastbound I-40 will be directed on a detour that uses N.C. 42.
About 1,200 vehicles use the ramp that is closing each day, according to NCDOT. That compares to about 12,000 who go from westbound U.S. 70 onto westbound I-40 toward Raleigh.
The U.S. 70/I-40 interchange is being reconfigured as NCDOT widens the interstate south of Raleigh and builds the N.C. 540 toll road, also known as the Triangle Expressway, across southern Wake County. The three highways will meet in what will likely be the region’s largest highway interchange.
To help get drivers from one highway to another, NCDOT is building a giant rotary around the center where N.C. 540 will cross I-40. The turbine interchange, as NCDOT calls it, will keep some traffic on the periphery while other drivers use more traditional ramps near the center.
Drivers going from westbound U.S. 70 to eastbound I-40 will eventually take the rotary three-quarters of the way around the interchange.
This phase of the Triangle Expressway will begin and end at I-40, though the turbine interchange is designed with the final leg in mind. From here, N.C. 540 will eventually continue as a toll road up to I-87 in Knightdale, completing the loop around Wake County.
The Triangle Expressway across southern Wake isn’t expected to open until the spring of 2024. The following year, NCDOT expects to award a contract to design and build the final leg up to Knightdale.
Meanwhile, the widening of I-40 between Raleigh and U.S. 70 interchange is expected to be finished sometime next year. The rest of the project, including the rebuilding of the N.C. 42 interchange in the Cleveland community, is not scheduled to be finished until sometime in 2024.