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When and how would I-40 be reversed in the event of a major hurricane?

Jim Ware
Interstate 40 sign

Traffic on Interstate 40 would be reversed toward Raleigh in the event of a major hurricane and evacuation orders. (StarNews file photo)

  • **UPDATE as of Oct. 5, 2016: The state has shelved a plan to reverse the eastbound lanes of I-40 in the event of a Category 3 or higher storm hitting Southeastern North Carolina. The DOT says improvements to east-west routes east of I-95 that allow traffic to move more efficiently have allowed that plan to be decommissioned.

The reversal of Interstate 40 traffic would “will be considered only when the southeastern coast of North Carolina is threatened by a major hurricane and mandatory evacuations are issued,” according to the N.C. Department of Transportation website.

Here’s N.C. DOT’s I-40 reversal plan:

Who: This plan would affect those motorists evacuating from the southeastern coastal area of North Carolina.

Why: To help move citizens safely and efficiently out of harm’s way during large-scale evacuations.

What: If this plan is activated, I-40 east will carry two lanes of westbound traffic. Most entrances and exits to the regular eastbound and reversal lanes will be open.

When: The reversal will be considered only when the southeastern coast of North Carolina is threatened by a major hurricane and mandatory evacuations are issued. A decision to reverse I-40 would be made jointly by the secretaries of Transportation and Crime Control & Public Safety, in consultation with the governor of North Carolina. In addition to the strength of the storm, other factors to be considered in the decision include projected landfall and the population remaining at the time the mandatory evacuation is ordered.

Where: The reversal would begin in Wilmington, just before the Gordon Road exit (Exit 420). The left lane of traffic on N.C. 132 west will be directed onto the reversal lanes and traffic in the right lane will continue on I-40 west. Commercial vehicles will be restricted to the regular westbound lanes of I-40. The reversal would end at the N.C. 96 (Exit 334) interchange east of Benson. No traffic will be permitted on the eastbound lanes of I-40 between I-95 and N.C. 96.

Please Note: All eastbound traffic on I-40 must exit at 1-95 (Exit 328). Motorists can still reach the Wilmington area via alternate routes such as U.S. 421 and U.S. 117.

Should the reversal be activated, citizens will be advised through local radio and television stations. For more information on this plan and real-time travel information, visit www.dot.state.nc.us and click on Real-Time Travel Information. For general transportation questions, call toll free I-877-DOT4YOU (368-4968).

For more information on hurricane preparedness and evacuation safety, visit the N.C. Emergency Management Division at www.ncem.org or call your county’s Emergency Management Office.

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