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Consensus on Traffic Growth is to Find Alternatives

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RALEIGH — TheU.S. Census Bureausays from 1990 to 1998, the Triangle grew at the nation's 12th fastest pace. The area was home to 200,000 new residents, and a lot of overcrowded roads.

Ask anyone who gets stuck in I-40 gridlock, and they will tell you some of the Triangle's sharpest growing pains are felt by commuters.

TheNorth Carolina Department of Transportationhas an entire division that concentrates on planning for future road needs. Can all their efforts prepare our road system for all that growth? The answer from them is "no."

"We cannot possibly pave enough road to serve the kind of growth that we're having, not unless we want to be one giant highway," says chief planning officer Janet D'Ignazio.

Roads like I-540, the Outer Loop, are designed to help handle growth. But DOT planners say we desperately need solutions that get cars off the roads.

"We have to look for more and different solutions than just adding more lanes," D'Ignazio says.

The state strongly supports theTriangle Transit Authority's plan for regional rail. They also back a more comprehensive bus system. And the DOT is studyinghigh occupancy vehicle lanes.

The road planners say they have to take a realistic approach to growth. They say they have to try to at least keep pace with the growth.

"I'm not sure we'll ever get ahead of it, not at that kind of speed, but if we can try to keep pace with it, keep the people moving, that's our job," D'Ignazio says.

The DOT is also updating its long range plan for road construction. The plan was last updated in 1994.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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