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Highway 401 Widening Plan Draws Mixed Reactions

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LOUISBURG, N.C. — In recent years, most of the Triangle's highway money has gone to projects like I-540 and the Highway 64 Bypass. After decades of waiting their turn, northern Wake and Franklin Counties are finally getting some attention. The Department of Transportation is now planning to widen Highway 401.

Rolling through northern Wake County into Franklin County Highway 401 is a winding, two-lane country road. That's the problem, according to a growing number of people who live and work along the highway.

The priority of the DOT is to widen Highway 401 to four lanes from the Neuse River to Louisburg. It's 20 miles, it'll cost $90 million, and it could take six years. Local car dealer Phyllis Culbreath said more asphalt would crank the economic engine.

"We need this widening to bring people to move into the county to help businesses," said Culbreath. "We can attract customers, but they still have to come down 401."

The highway can be a challenge. Heading out of Raleigh, it's a six-lane divided highway. At the Neuse River, it squeezes down to two lanes.

Some people are so excited about the potential of a widened Highway 401 that they've made up bumper stickers. However, some others aren't ready to slap them on their car. The owner of one convenience store worries about a big-box store coming in and taking his business. Some of the customers are concerned as well.

"I'm a local person, and I like it slower-paced," said Tommy Lloyd. "More people makes it faster-paced. (The road widening) would make more people (come), I think."

The DOT said work could start late this year. A public meeting was planned for Thursday night at 7 p.m., in the Agriculture Extension building in Louisburg.


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