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First Phase of I-85, U.S. 70 Makeover Ready to Begin

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DURHAM — A project to widen the Interstate 85 corridor north of Durham is ready to get under way. Work was supposed to begin Monday on the first phase of the interstate makeover, but rain washed out plans.

The I-85, U.S. 70 improvement project through Durham County is expected to take eight years to complete at an estimated cost of $155 million. The work will be done in three phases: Phase 1:Work is scheduled to begin this week on the first phase of the project, which is expected to be completed in 2004. The $54 million first leg concentrates on the I-85, U.S. 70 interchange.

The makeover is designed to change an outdated, confusing set of connector roads into a modern merger of two major highways.

There will be years of detours, diversions and big headaches for drivers. But, theDepartment of Transportationmakes one promise.

"The public can expect two-lane, two-way traffic on I-85 and U.S. 70 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hopefully that will minimize the impact on the daily commute," says resident engineer Michelle Gragg. Phase 2:The second phase is estimated to take five years and cost $50 million. The project runs from Camden Avenue to Broad Street. I-85 at U.S. 70 will be widened. A major feature of the project is improved, safer interchanges. Phase 3:The third phase is expected to take five years and cost $52 million. It will run from Broad Street to just west of 15-501. Crews will rebuild interchanges and add lanes.

Construction of the entire stretch of I-85 from U.S. 70 West to 15-501 is expected to last until November of 2007.

"Be patient with us, " says Gragg. "Watch for signs, watch for construction. We will have message boards that will advise the public on the work that will be going on."

The DOT hopes to limit driving delays by closing down lanes during non-peak driving times.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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