Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The New New Falls of Neuse Road Bridge

Being a "road enthusiast", I get excited whenever a new road opens. I haven't been doing this as much lately, but if it's local, I usually try to drive the road at the first available opportunity. And when the new road benefits me directly, bonus!

A new bridge opened in North Raleigh on October 15th, and I drove it en route to curling on October 21st. Google Maps doesn't recognize it yet, but trust me, it's there. You can now go directly from Point B to Point C along what I think is called "New Falls of Neuse Road", as opposed to the old "Falls of Neuse Road", which now takes a left turn just before the bridge before continuing northward.

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The curling rink is near point D on the map in the town of Wake Forest. When going to curling, I normally come from I-540, near point A. Used to be, we had to route options when heading from Eastbound I-540 to Wake Forest. Capital Blvd was for sure the fastest route, but it's often busy and isn't particularly fun to drive. As an alternative, you could have taken (old) Falls of Neuse Road bridge over the Neuse River, and then taken Wakefield Pines Drive from (old) Falls of Neuse to New Falls of Neuse. This route is a bit indirect, and therefore, slower. But now that you can go straight from point B to point C, that begs the question: is New Falls of Neuse Road now a faster route to Wake Forest than Capital Blvd?

Having taking it to the rink twice and from the rink once last weekend, I can definitely say that it's less annoying; there is far less traffic than Capital Blvd. As for whether it's faster than Capital's close. Very, very close. By a stroke of luck, a fellow curler passed me on I-540 a few miles before the Falls of Neuse Road exit the other day. I took New Falls of Neuse to the curling rink, and he took (I assume) Capital. In theory, if New Falls of Neuse were faster, I would have still made it to the curling rink before my fellow curler, despite his passing and pulling away from me on I-540, right? Well, I didn't get there first, but he was still just getting out of his car in the parking lot when I pulled in. It must have been close.

Stopwatch numbers also tell me that this new route might be a little bit slower overall, but not by much. So, here are my preliminary conclusions. At best, New Falls of Neuse is equal in time to Capital. At worst, New Falls of Neuse is a viable alternative route when Capital is busy. Even though New Falls of Neuse is much more direct than Capital Blvd, the reasons Capital is still just as fast, if not faster, are a higher speed limit (55 instead of 40/45), more beneficial traffic light timing, and a free-flowing exit ramp from eastbound I-540 to northbound Capital.

And the construction project isn't done yet. Part of the original Falls of Neuse Road south of the new bridge is still two lanes. They're working to widen it, but it won't be done for a while - not until Spring 2013. But once it's four lanes all the way from I-540 to Wake Forest, that may be enough to push New Falls of Neuse Road over the top! At least until the secret gets out and everybody starts taking New Falls of Neuse Road to Wake Forest. Which, I suppose I'm not helping, am I?

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