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State's Money Problems May Create A Detour To Outer Loop Plans

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WAKE COUNTY — The state had planned to spend $2.5 billion to finish building OuterLoops like I-540 in Raleigh, but critics say they have a better idea.

Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham) wants to spend half of the money tomaintainthe roads the state already has and spend the other half on masstransit.

"My bill would allow the DOT to finish those sections where contracts havealready been let, but from now on, you wouldnot let more contracts, and the money would bedirected towards more appropriatetransportation needs," he says.

Some Triangle residents say the new Outer Loop will shorten theircommute.

"I think it will free up a lot of the frustration from bumper-to-bumpertraffic," says commuter Brian Wellons. "These secondary roads are stopand go, and it's always congested, especially at rush hour. It'd be niceto have a straight shot from here to there."

The DOT acknowledges the Outer Loops are overbudget and behind schedule,but officials like Janet D'Ignazio saythey are just following a plan thelegislature spelled out in 1989.

"Really, it's the legislature'scall about how they want us to spend the money that's designated for theHighway Trust Fund," she says.

If state lawmakers decide to divert theOuter Loop money to maintenance and masstransit, that is what the DOT will do. However, they warn scrappingthe construction now and coming back later willonly increase the tab.

Here is an update on the OuterLoop:

The completed leg of Interstate 540 runs from I-40 toCreedmoor Road. It was completed in December 2000.Totalcost: $140million.

The next leg runs from Creedmoor to Falls of Neuse. It will be finishedlater in May.Total cost: $38 million.

If the funding is not held up, the next leg runs from Falls of Neuse toHighway 64. It should be completed in 2006.Totalcost: $194 million.

While that work is underway, crews will simultaneously work on a shortsection from I-40 to Highway 55. It should be finished in2003.Total cost: $43million.

The southern leg of the Outer Loop is still just a plan, but officialshave noteven purchased rights of way. A complete Outer Loop would cost $608million with a projected completion date of2025.

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