CLAYTON, N.C. — A $123 million bypass that opened Monday in Johnston County is expected to relieve congestion and speed thousands of vehicles a day around the town of Clayton.
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Amanda Perry said the nearly 11-mile bypass is expected to carry 85,000 cars a day by 2025.
The road links Interstate 40 to U.S. 70 just west of Smithfield. Motorists who currently take U.S. 70 can expect to save about 15 minutes of travel time by using the new bypass.
"I go into the city or I go between here and Clayton all the time, so this should be wonderful," said driver Mickey Bast. "I'm very excited about this."
Construction began on the highway in June 2005 and it is opening a year ahead of schedule.
"DOT, sometimes we cuss you, but we're praising you today," Johnston County Commissioner Cookie Pope said.
"DOT is often criticized for delaying projects, and this is one of those chances we get to toot our own horn," said State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett.
To help keep drivers informed, the bypass features the state’s first fully automated speed-detection system. Twenty-two speed sensors located throughout the project will allow Dynamic Message Signs to display real-time travel information, including estimated drive times.
"(Drivers) will be able to determine how long it's going to take them (to get to their destination), and if they want to take an alternate route, they can," DOT engineer Sherry Yow said.
Motorists on existing U.S. 70 will be aware of travel conditions ahead and have the opportunity to select their route accordingly.
Project staff also undertook numerous environmental stewardship efforts while designing and constructing the bypass due to its close proximity to the Swift Creek watershed. These features include a wildlife underpass, hazardous spill basins and various erosion control devices to help protect the area’s ecosystem.