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Large Development Could Add Thousands To Cary's Population

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CARY, N.C. — One of North Carolina's fastest growing communities is on the cusp of another huge growth spurt. Interstate 540 is extending into Cary, paving the way for one of the town's biggest and most expensive developments yet.

The dirt moving next to the future Highway 55 and Interstate 540 interchange is some of the most desirable land in the Triangle. Located right next to the southern tip of Research Triangle Park, 970 acres will become the Alston Activity Center.

Cary's extension west is happening so quickly that even some of the newest roads can't keep up. The plan for the northwestern part of the town calls for 8,000 acres of new development.

"We could end up with 20,000-40,000 people," said Cary town planner Scott Ramage.

That would be a 30 percent jump in the town's current population. In the first stage alone, 900 homes will be built, plus more than 3,000 condos or apartments. Developers will add 4 million square feet of retail and office space - more than what is already in the Crossroads area.

Billy Barham runs the only gas station currently in the area. Development means more competition, as well as more business.

"I can't see anything negative about it, but I'm sure people have concerns with the traffic and growth in the area," said Barham.

Traffic is already congested in the Highway 55 construction zone. When crews finish, it will be four lanes, but will it be enough for all the anticipated growth?

"We've done extensive traffic modeling with a consultant to make sure we didn't overplan it, didn't include too much development beyond what the area could handle," said Ramage.

Right now, Cary is the seventh largest city in North Carolina. At the current growth rate though, town planners expect to pass No. 6, Fayetteville, in the next census or two.