Not even the rain stopped crews from working on the I-485/I-85 improvement projects Tuesday. It also didn't hamper a visit to the construction site by Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.
He praised the NCDOT for its progress and highlighted the innovative traffic designs.
"We are looking at new designs for our interchanges to make them safer and more efficient, and I think what we are doing here with these two concepts -- they are taking us in the right direction,” Mendez said.
Right now, crews are converting the existing I-485/I-85 interchange to a turbine interchange, which is the first of its kind in the state. It is made up of lanes that sweep left, turning traffic around a central bridge in a clockwise direction. It allows traffic to move seamlessly between the two highways.
Diverging diamond interchanges are being built at I-485 and Mallard Creek Road and at I-85 and Poplar Tent. They allow two directions of traffic to temporarily cross to the left side of the road without increasing the number of lanes and traffic signals.
Experts say both designs are cost-effective, improve safety and drastically reduce congestion.
"It should take what's now a 20- or 30-minute afternoon or morning commute and get it down to about four or five minutes,” NCDOT project engineer Gary Eudy said.
That is welcome news to drivers like Ron Berst. He battles traffic in the area at least twice a week.
"It would be great if it's true. That's a substantial difference," Berst said. "Hopefully, they've tested it and it has a good track record in other cities and if it works, I would up for it."
The new interchange on I-485 and I-85 is expected to be complete and open to traffic in the summer of next year.
Mendez also said the federal cuts from sequestration will not have any impact on the I-485/I-85 improvement projects and all the workers involved will continue to get paid.
For more information on the improvement projects, click here.