State to Develop Roads for Expected Growth
Posted June 7, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
SANFORD — The state says it's going to be making some road improvements in anticipation of a population boom. Highways 401 south, U.S. One and 64 are being widened to ease the commute to and from Raleigh from the southwest, for now and the future.
Some growth experts, however, say the foresight may backfire.
The state decided to widen these highways primarily because of safety concerns, but it has created a whole new set of worries for Wake County planners. They fear that going from two lanes to four could bring too much business to the area and create even more traffic down the road.
Some people in the Triangle are actually seeing their commutes getting shorter. Widening parts of those highways will reduce commute times for even more people.
The widenings have also opened up land alongside the roads for development. You might consider this an improvement from what we've seen in other parts of our area, where the development came first followed by a desperate need for wider roads
Many planners worry that widening the roads first will still open southern Wake County up to more congestion. The only difference will be that first you'll have a big road, like 64, and the unrestrained growth could follow.
"This is one of these issues where in order to provide access between here and Pittsboro, you open up the area to potentially more sprawl," says Wake County Planning Director Mike Jennings.
Jennings admits that preventing the creation of more clogged arteries will be a challenge, but there's a big weapon in the county's arsenal. That's the power to decide where water and sewer service goes. A lot of the land along these widened roads doesn't have those things.
"Other areas where those roads are improved, unless there's water and sewer there, they probably won't develop quite that quickly, although the pressures to develop will be greater," says Jennings.
Planners say there are several other things that could limit growth along these roads. On Highway 64, for example, there are watershed rules near Lake Jordan, and the land along Highway 64 is owned by many people, all of whom have very small lots, so it might be difficult for anyone to put together a large piece of land to develop.