Stop I-40 Crossover Accidents in Wake County

As many of you know, my friend and colleague George Smith was killed on June 4 when a vehicle crossed over the unprotected median of I-40 in Wake County.

Last week, a similar crossover accident occurred – less than 5 miles from the original scene, also on the westbound lanes of I-40.

Please sign the petition below urging the North Carolina Department of Transportation to take immediate action and install a median barrier!

Sign Petition

George Smith – We Will Not Forget You

One week ago today, an unthinkable chain of events occurred.

I left for work, as usual, out of our subdivision and onto I-40 West. Before leaving, I ran back into the house looking for my gym clothes and the XM Radio that arrived the Friday before. As a result, I was running about 5 minutes later than I had wanted to.

Anyway, I eventually proceeded onto the I-40 West ramp. Strangely, I noticed that other cars were reversing up the ramp. I was upset that because I was a few minutes late, I now had to deal with a traffic backup. I almost hit the cars who were in reverse. Bizarre.

Of course, traffic was at a standstill at the bottom of the ramp – unusual for this early in the morning. It was 7:17 AM and emergency vehicles were rushing by me on the right shoulder.

Inching my way along, at 7:37 I had traveled 3/4 of a mile in 20 minutes and had reached the accident site. It looked *very* bad and I tried to snap a picture of the scene (while still stopped) on my Treo 700p. I also looked at the site closely as I finally passed it to the left. I saw a silver car with serious front end damage and remember thinking that someone was seriously hurt – I felt really bad for those involved.

Of course, once I got beyond the scene, I managed to get to work about 20 minutes later (though it took about an hour in total). Stacey called me when I arrived at work to see if I was OK, since she had heard about the accident.

When I got to my office, I immediately began to scour online news sources to find out what had happened. Little did I know what would ultimately end up being revealed.

Details slowly emerged…and a couple of hours later a vehicle and age description of my friend and coworker down the hall, George Smith, were published. My heart sank. I felt sick. I could not believe what was happening. If I had not taken the extra few minutes to go back into the house, it could have been me. The tragic accident had happened at 7:15 AM, only 2 minutes before I entered I-40.

More than anything, though, the realization hit me that Goerge was gone. I cannot describe it as anything other than surreal.

As I drove past the scene today (I went around it the rest of last week), I imagined being George and trying to anticipate the moves of the driver in the opposing lanes across the median. Bottom line? It’s impossible. With the traffic volume and speed combination at that hour (very busy but still moving fast), you really can’t focus on a specific car that far away without risking hitting the car in front of you. Poor George…he never would have seen the car coming at him.

Over the course of the past week, I served in George’s funeral and have had a first-hand experience of the void left behind from his death. Lesson? Life is short, (too short) and I think that most people (myself included) tend to forget that reality. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Story (Raleigh News & Observer)

Irish Funeral Blessing – Dedicated to George

Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I, and you are you.

Whatever we were to each other

That we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way which you always used

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes

We enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me,

Let my name be ever the household word that

It always was.

Let it be spoken without effort,

Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolutely unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind because I am

Out of sight? I am but waiting for you

For an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner.

All is well.

Canon Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)

Another Accident on I-40

I am going to start keeping a tally of all publicized accidents on the I-40 segment from Wade Ave to US1/64.

Since the NCDOT doesn’t see the widening of I-40 in this area as a priority, I thought it would be good to show what their negligence is causing.

Here is today’s (courtesy of WRAL.com)…

TRAFFIC ALERT: Two lanes of westbound Interstate 40 near mile marker 290 are closed while crews respond to an accident.

Total accidents since 10/13/05: 1

I-40 Widening Shot Down (Officially)

The finalized 2006-2012 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) was released yesterday.

Link

No surprise…the I-40 widening was shot down, and is only programmed for construction in “post years”, meaning “some time after 2012”. What an outrage!

The thing that really gets me is that they had the nerve to put in the following statement at the beginning of the document:

“The projects in the TIP reflect the voices of our citizens. During the development of this plan, NCDOT held a series of meetings across the state to gater public input. The 2006-2012 tim will help us fulfill Governor Mike Easley’s vision for One North Carolina – a state where every community matters and every individual counts.”

Yeah, right. Every individual counts? Why is it then that not a single one of the DOT meetings was scheduled in the Traingle Region? The closest was in Rocky Mount. I’ll tell you why, beacuse the Traingle is where they took away over $300 million in funding for critical road projects and the DOT was AFRAID to hold a meeting here. Consequently, they scheduled it an hour away to minimize turnout.

The DOT obviuosly does not care about the needs of the driving public in the Triangle Region. Supposedly, the funding was reallocated to rural areas to be more equitable. Screw the rural areas, I say. The Traingle generates far more tax revenue than these areas, and that money should stay here. To neglect our own area for the sake of rural county “X” makes no sense whatsoever.

Great job, DOT. Maybe in 2012, traffic will be stopped all the way to Durham along I-40 due to your incompetence. I hope you take joy in the fact that you are responsible for not only serious traffic delays, but also the deaths of innocent motorists that could have been prevented.

Message to NCDOT

Below is the message that I sent to the NCDOT regarding the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). Hopefully, they get the message since neither of the division representatives responded to my direct email.

Hello,

I am writing to express my opinion regarding TIP Number I-4744, which relates to the widening of I-40 in Wake County from Wade Ave. to US 1/64.

I am dismayed that the DOT has not included the construction of this critical road segment in its draft version of the TIP and hope that it will reconsider this decision, given the extreme daily congestion caused by the bottleneck in this area as well as the number of traffic accidents occurring here.

This project would have a tremendous benefit for the entire Triangle region, and should not be delayed any longer. As a motorist who commutes daily along I-40 from West Raleigh to Durham, I can say that the problems in this area have only become worse in the past several years, and ignoring this critical 3 mile segment of I-40 will be a poor decision going forward, with the area’s continued growth.

Thank you for hearing my concern as you work to finalize the TIP.

Raleigh City Council Meeting

Today I learned that there would be a meeting held at Raleigh city Hall to discuss which Raleigh road projects should be given priority to present to the NC DOT. Despite needing to go to the gym, I thought it was important to voice my concerns at this discussion. Luckily, I was able to go to the gym, get a shower, and make it to City Hall by the 7 PM start time.

I have never been to City Hall or a council meeting before, so I had no idea what to expect. Upon arriving, I picked up a copy of the meeting agenda and discovered that the road project discussion was at the end of the list of items to be covered. Most of the initial items were covered quickly.

When it came time to dicuss the Transportation Imrovement Plan (TIP) priority list, public comment was solicited. I expected many people to give feedback. As I looked around the room, however, NO ONE offered comment. At that point, I decided to go forward and express my concern over the I-40 widening from wade Ave to US1/64. If you have read my earlier post on this subject, you know that it’s an important issue for me.

Despite listening to my concern (and agreeing this project is necessary, I think), the city council took the attitude that smaller, more neighborhood-specific projects should be at the top of the list. I think this is beacuse of the smaller dollar amounts required by such projects as well as the fact that they relate to areas well within the city limits.

This is unfortunate, but at least I expressed my opinion to the mayor and city council. Even though this stretch of I-40 runs right along the line of the Raleigh city limits, it is, in my opinion, the most critically needed road project in the Triangle. This is how many people coming to Raleigh travel, and the backups in this area have a definite impact on business and leisure travel to the city. Many Raleigh residents (myself included) experience the severe daily congestion and accidents caused by this 3-mile bottleneck.

After the council meeting had adjourned, I was interviewed by News 14 Carolina (cool) regarding my concerns. You can see the story and video at the following URL:

http://rdu.news14.com/content/top_stories/?ArID=71726

I-40 Widening

As anyone in the Raleigh area knows, traffic problems along I-40 in Wake County continue to multiply as our area experiences continued rapid population growth.

It is therefore disturbing that the DOT plans to cut approximately $300 million from our region’s highway budget in its 2006-2012 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). Projects such as the I-40 widening from Wade Ave to US1/64 in Cary, the widening of I-440 from Hillsborough St to US1/64, and the next leg of I-540 from NC 55 to Holly Springs will remain unfunded if the draft version of the TIP is allowed to pass.

Please contact the DOT to voice your opposition to this plan.

Contact DOT Triangle division representative

Sad…another death at the split:

Woman Dies In Wade Avenue Accident Near Westbound I-40