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May Tri-Ex Roadtrip

Adam Prince, Brian Leblanc, Chris Allen, and I set off Sunday afternoon to see what progress had been made in building the Triangle Expressway (TriEx) since our last official progress tour in April. We were all pleasantly surprised by the progress that had been made. You can follow along using this handy map:
A. Triangle Parkway (NC 147 Extension, Interchanges 1-3, 5)
The tour started at the I-40 interchange with NC 147, the beginning of the parkway. Construction had really started in earnest on rebuilding the interchange ramps between I-40 East and NC 147. The photo below suggest some of the reasons the exits have to be rebuilt:
Though the interchange goes from freeway to freeway, the ramps are designed to be low speed. As you can see on the extreme right there's a stop sign at the end of the I-40 East ramp because there is no merge lane. The ramp is being rebuilt as seen below:
The new ramp will be south of the current one and include a new lane for merging. The one problem with building the new lane is the current NC 54 bridge just to the south of I-40. The contractors have decided they don't need to move the bridge to a new location, but only shift it south about 10 feet. This is what the bridge looks like with the project half completed:
The current north side of the bridge has been cut back and new supports to hold the bridge extension to the south are being constructed. Meanwhile they're also working on a new I-40 on ramp, which will be further east than the current one:
Being on the NC 54 bridge also gives you a good look at the progress in connecting current NC 147 to the Parkway. There doesn't seem to be much progress since last month. Most likely due to this being the last part to be completed, since that will sever the Durham Freeway connection with Alexander Drive and it's connection to NC 54.
Here is the view at road level to the connection taken from NC 147 North:
Our second stop was at Number 2 on your map, the future Hopson Road bridge and interchange. The view looking north had not changed much since April:
Work was proceeding on grading and adding drainage pipes and culverts, the biggest change was looking south. This is what it looked like last month:
Causing us to think the Parkway opening could be delayed. Well, this is what it looked like a month later:
All the trees had been cut, some of the electric towers had been removed, and grading in places had been started. You can now see down to Davis Drive and further toward NC 540 (over the hill in the distance). The wide expanse of the ROW as shown in the photo below, further down toward Davis Drive, is due to the 2 interchanges (2 and 3 on the map) going in here:
There will be only one off-ramp from the Parkway, vehicles wishing to get to the exit beyond (say from 2 to 3) will use C/D ramps along the sides of the Parkway which will include traffic lights at Hopson and Davis Drive. The photo also shows the progress being made in grading the Parkway as it curves to the right after Davis Drive.

The next stop was at the end of the Triangle Parkway at the current Davis Drive interchange. This interchange will be closed to NC 540 traffic June 1 to allow for further construction. Here's a view from the temporary on ramp:
While here's the view from the off ramp from East NC 540:

The Western Wake Freeway.
Our first stop on this section of the TriEx was at the current end of NC 540 West. As you see there has been progress made on the bridge being put in just to the west toward the McCrimmon Parkway:
The steel bridge supports have been placed and work has started on landscaping to control water runoff. The ramps to NC 55 (Exit 6 on the map) have been graded and appear ready to accept an asphalt covering. A view of the large cleared area:
Shows the amount of room needed for constructing the Freeway, and the on and off ramps for NC 55. The area toward the front will be built up to match the elevation of the current NC 540.

The next stop south was at the now closed McCrimmon Parkway, if you remember from last month, the road was to due to be closed in a few days--
That was because, inside a month, the view from the other side of the hill would not show the parkway but rather look like this:
The concrete mid-bridge support posts are in, work is proceeding on the support structures on either side. The view toward Carpenter Fire Station Road, implies the Freeway will go under that roadway as well:
Our next stop was the USA Baseball complex where last month we discovered we could get good views of the Freeway by walking through a bordering stand of trees. Well, guess what disappeared in the meanwhile, to help answer look at what has collected on the now treeless ground:
The material in the foreground is wood chips, not sand. The view is north up to Green Level School Road and what is assumed another bridge for the freeway to go under. Looking south:
One can see that they have now cleared the freeway ROW up to Green Level Church Road and beyond, which will be the location of the next interchange, appropriately called Green Level, and No. 7 on your map. There is evidence of much progress here, including landscaping already in place and culverts having been delivered to help with highway drainage:
In fact clearing has started beyound the Green Level interchange all the way south to interchange 8, US 64. Here's a view going eastbound on 64 and the clear area to the left:
Another view from the westbound turn onto Kelly Road (where a free interchange will be combined with the US 64 exit):
As you can see looking at the map, nearly 2/3 of the Western Wake ROW has now at least been cleared. Clearing the remaining third has been complicated by some land takings still needing to be negotiated, but work could start shortly. As of now, there's no plan to open the NC 540 freeway until the whole route has been completed. This plan could possibly change if work on the southern end is further delayed. The next trip to check on progress is scheduled for mid-June.

Comments

Anonymous said…
(sorry if this appears twice...)

I have a few questions about the new roads:

1. Are they going to reconstruct any of the interchange of NC 147 and I-40, especially that wretched left entrance from the former to the latter Eastbound?

2. How many lanes wide will the 147 and 540 extensions be? Also, I've heard they plan to widen 147 between Ellis Rd. and/or the East End Connector (or something like that) and I-40 to three lanes in each direction--is that to be a part of this project or some separate entity?

3. Has anyone thought of keeping open the current end of NC 147 to southbound traffic only, as an exit to Alexander Dr., with a paired entrance to 147 Southbound using part of the existing lanes? This would improve connectivity within RTP, even more so if they create a set of entrance/exit ramps from 147 Northbound to NC 54, but I imagine that may be a bit too close to the I-40 interchange to be safe.

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