The N.C. Department of Transportation has received a federal $1.5 million grant to help make driving safer, especially through work zones.
The money, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the first round of grants totaling $94 million under the law’s new Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation grant program, dubbed SMART.
The NCDOT’s Mobility and Safety Division will use the grant to develop a system that sends alerts to travelers about the need to slow down, stop or change lanes. Currently, the NCDOT is sending alerts to commercial truck drivers about slow traffic ahead on a small scale.
The new project will let the NCDOT expand this real-time traveler alert system to more drivers in more situations, including work zones, by using their own smartphones, navigation apps and other technologies.
The project will not affect the NCDOT's site for travelers, DriveNC.gov, which will function the same for the public.
Kelly Wells, the department’s traveler information engineer who helped write the grant application, said equipping drivers with more timely alerts about sudden changes in traffic conditions will help reduce crashes.
The work zone for the I-95 widening around Lumberton and Fayetteville will be one of two zones in which this new system will be deployed by next year.
The project also includes developing a way to send traveler alerts directly to connected and autonomous vehicles in a future phase.
The department plans to work with many partners to get the information into a format that can be used by popular traveler apps, such as Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps.
The total project cost, including in-kind labor primarily from NCDOT, is nearly $2 million.
Once this new system is fully operational down the line it will be helpful in alerting drivers to road closures due to maintenance such as the closure of a section of Interstate 295 South scheduled for this upcoming Sunday.
The bridge over Carvers Creek, which is near the Cape Fear River, will be closed from 6 p.m. March 24 until 6 p.m. March 26.
The detour will require southbound drivers to take the River Road exit. They will travel south on River Road to Middle Road, then onto U.S. 301/I-95 Business to Grove Street; then north on Ramsey Street (U.S. 401), if they wish to continue on I-295 South.
This project is weather-dependent, so bad weather could result in this work being postponed and rescheduled later.
The bridge maintenance department for the N.C. Department of Transportation will do a combination of repairs and replacements of the expansion joints, which help provide a smoother ride and protect the girders supporting the driving deck.
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