Local News

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

Posted May 3, 2001 12:31 p.m. EDT

— The state had planned to spend $2.5 billion to finish building Outer Loops 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 to maintain the roads the state already has and spend the other half on mass transit.

"My bill would allow the DOT to finish those sections where contracts have already been let, but from now on, you would not let more contracts, and the money would be directed towards more appropriate transportation needs," he says.

Some Triangle residents say the new Outer Loop will shorten their commute.

"I think it will free up a lot of the frustration from bumper-to-bumper traffic," says commuter Brian Wellons. "These secondary roads are stop and go, and it's always congested, especially at rush hour. It'd be nice to 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 say they are just following a plan the legislature spelled out in 1989.

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

If state lawmakers decide to divert the Outer Loop money to maintenance and mass transit, that is what the DOT will do. However, they warn scrapping the construction now and coming back later will only increase the tab.

Here is an update on the Outer Loop:

The completed leg of Interstate 540 runs from I-40 to Creedmoor Road. It was completed in December 2000.Total cost: $140 million.

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

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

While that work is underway, crews will simultaneously work on a short section from I-40 to Highway 55. It should be finished in 2003.Total cost: $43 million.

The southern leg of the Outer Loop is still just a plan, but officials have not even purchased rights of way. A complete Outer Loop would cost $608 million with a projected completion date of 2025.