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From Pasture To Pavement: Raleigh's Outer Loop Continues To Change Rural Areas

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WAKE COUNTY — Raleigh's Outer Loop is designed to solve some of the Triangle's growing traffic troubles. Many people along the construction route say the new highway will ruin their once, quiet communities.

The town is now coming right to the feet of "Big Man" or "Paul Bunyan" -- a 22-foot-tall statue that used to show drivers on Highway 401 north of Raleigh that they were heading out of town.

The new $14.5 million interchange with Interstate 540 is well under construction. In a few years, an area once considered "out in the sticks" will be a major interchange on a major interstate.

"You'll see areas that were previously relatively rural-looking that will be experiencing a lot of development, residential, commercial, hotels, restaurants in places, where 10 years ago, you would have probably never imagined that," says Lisa Privette, a resident engineer for theDepartment of Transportation.

It is not just Highway 401. Many spots along the Outer Loop are changing from pasture to pavement. The DOT says the change is all part of trying to play catch-up to the area's booming growth.

Several residents say the area will lose its rural charm when the new interstate comes through. Others say it is all part of Raleigh's rapid growth and its rapidly growing traffic troubles.

Shelby McDonald says I-540 will give customers easier access to her business, but she understands the people who do not like what is coming.

"I live out in the country myself. I like the peace and quiet of the country, but it is progress," she says.

Work connecting Highway 401 to the Outer Loop will not be finished until 2005. The Highway 401 widening project should be finished by December 2001.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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