Cary, N.C. — A community meeting is scheduled Thursday evening to discuss a state Department of Transportation proposal to expand a stretch of U.S. Highway 64.
The meeting is from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Green Hope High, 2500 Carpenter Upchurch Road in Cary.
The 19-mile project runs from the U.S. 64 Business/U.S. 64 Bypass Interchange, east of Pittsboro in Chatham County, and extends east to the U.S. 1/U.S. Highway 64 interchange in Cary in Wake County.
The two-phase plan calls for first, restricting left turns and putting in U-turns for better traffic flow over the course of five to 10 years. This would transform sections of 64 into what's called a "Superstreet," utilizing "Michigan left" turns.
The concept was first used in Detroit and essentially eliminates left turns at intersections. Michigan left turns instead call for drivers desiring to make a left turn to first turn right and then drive down to a make a U-turn in the median.
Department of Transportation engineers say the design is safer and avoids more costly expenses associated with widening a road.
The second phase would turn a two-mile stretch from U.S. 64/U.S. 1 in Cary to Laura Duncan Road in Apex into an elevated highway. Interstate traffic would flow on the top road, with local access on a road underneath. It would take an additional 10 to 25 years to complete.
In the long-term, officials hope to create a bicycle and pedestrian trail from west of the Haw River in Pittsboro across Jordan Lake to Apex. This trail would connect to the American Tobacco Trail.
Cary resident Danny Epstein is leading the charge against the project.
“When we found out, we were kinda outraged,” Epstein said.
Epstein and other local residents and business owners have gathered petition signatures at grocery stores and online at the Web site Save64.org in an effort to stop the project.
“The community has a right to control how community is going to be reshaped,” Epstein said.
Epstein is concerned about the project’s vision for U.S. 64 from the U.S. 1 interchange in Cary through Apex. He said the project is just going to bring “more traffic into the area” and make it harder to get to local businesses.
Dave Wasserman, a DOT project engineer, said the project was an effort to “develop a master plan to guide growth and development along this corridor.” They have been studying increased traffic and crashes associated with steady growth in the Apex and Cary area.
A team of DOT staff and Apex, Cary, Wake County and Chatham County officials developed the plan, but it has no sources of funding. The DOT said a rough estimate would be about $400 million but that the cost would likely change.
While there is no money identified, now is the time for the public to influence the plans. If funding is approved for any of the short-term improvements, detailed designs will be developed and an additional public meeting will be held before any construction begins.
"This is one of the better solutions out there," Wasserman said in June. He said that traffic in the area will only get worse and that it is focusing on U.S. 64 between Cary and Pittsboro because it is another route from Raleigh to Charlotte.
Check out the plans and the Question and Answer section at http://www.ncdot.gov/doh/preconstruct/tpb/SHC/studies/US64/.