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NCDOT Changes Mind about I-40 Route through Greensboro

The FHWA has agreed to let NCDOT return I-40 to its original alignment through Greensboro's Death Valley. When the SW quadrant of the Loop was completed earlier this year and I-40 routed along the new highway, local residents complained about the noise, particularly truck noise, from the new highway. Many complained that NCDOT never told them it would be a freeway, as expressed in this paragraph from today's article in the Greensboro News & Record:
"Irate neighbors of the 7.7-mile, $122 million stretch of road said they had been surprised by the volume of truck traffic on what they understood would be a bypass more on the order of Bryan Boulevard."

NCDOT hopes the redesignation will mean most of the truck traffic will return to I-40’s initial route as soon as the state can prepare and install new signs. [Comment: Where did the old I-40 signs they just took down go? Couldn't they use them?] They feel that since I-73 is a fledgling route that currently does not go north beyond Greensboro, the Loop will have less traffic on it.

What this all will mean:

1. Changing the green I-40 Business signs back to the blue I-40 signs.
2. Re-labeling the exits along I-40 as Exit 212 (I-40/73) to Exit 227 (I-40/85).
3. Re-labeling the exits along I-73 as Exit 103 (I-73/40 interchange) to Exit 95 (I-73/U.S. 220 interchange) [Comment: Since I-73 shouldn't exit itself, Exit 95 should be for I-85 North].
4. Rerouting U.S. 421 to run concurrently with I-73 and parts of I-85.
5. Signs for the I-85 Business route and the I-85 exits will remain the same.

Story in the Winston-Salem Journal

Story in the Greensboro News & Record

Commentary:

I have always argued that the western part of the past and future I-40 should never have been given a business interstate designation since it's up to modern interstate standards. Given that the FHWA allowed the route east including Death Valley to be re-designated an interstate calls into question NCDOT's explanation of changing former interstates to business routes because they are not up to current interstate standards. If I-40 is to run on its old routing does it make sense to still sign that part also as Business 85? A better idea would be to remove that designation from the I-40 part and make the rest just US 29/70, or if you wanted an interstate, an I-x85 spur route.

This latest piece of news from NCDOT sounds familiar. NCDOT makes decision without apparently communicating clearly to people of importance (in this case very vocal citizens), NCDOT then has to re-do at least part of the project and who pays the extra cost? NC taxpayers, of course.

This decision also calls into question the reason behind building a Loop entirely around Greensboro. The point was constantly made during the southern part's construction that it had to be done to remove as much traffic as possible from the Death Valley traffic choke point. Now that doesn't seem as important as satisfying a few loud and critical citizens. Hopefully, smart travelers going west will still use the I-85 Loop then go north on US 220 to get around Death Valley and return to I-40. All the signs are to be changed by December.

Comments

Bob Malme said…
An additional story (and video) on WRAL.com pegs the cost of returning I-40 to its original alignment at $300,000.
See the link here:
http://www.wral.com/traffic/story/3550101/

An NCDOT official commenting on the Internet newsgroup misc.transport.road suggested another reason the I-40 routing was reconsidered, the loss of federal interstate maintenance funds. The funds go to help states repair interstate routes, but not interstate business routes. By putting I-40 back on its old alignment NCDOT regains money to help in any future road work along the old route (that they spent the summer repaving, don't know if federal funds can be claimed retroactively) while also getting money for the Urban Loop.

An editorial in the Greensboro News & Record on 9/17 cited positive feedback by some of the noise affected residents to the re-routing suggesting some signs have changed already. If anyone traveling through the Greensboro area has signage updates, we'd love to hear them.
Bob Malme said…
There's a good story confirming that money and not civic mindedness was the impetus behind the I-40 route change in today's (9/18) News & Observer.

The link is here:
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/ growth/traffic/story/1223303.html
Froggie said…
First off, if one's using the I-85 part of the loop, why on earth would they use US 220 to get back to I-40?

Second, the signs (i.e. I-40 going back to its original route) may work with out-of-town travelers who don't know any better, but regulars/locals/those-with-experience will still use the southern loop to bypass old 40/85 through Greensboro. Especially if the truckers perceive an advantage to remaining on the loop, they'll remain on the loop and everyone's (NCDOT and local residents) arguments for "reducing noise" will be rendered for naught.

(and serves 'em all right too IMO)

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