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City Leaders Eager to Get Construction of Eastern Wake Expressway Under Way

The Raleigh City Council and Mayor Charles Meeker are calling on the Department of Transportation to speed up construction on the next part of Interstate 540.

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GARNER, N.C. — The Raleigh City Council and Mayor Charles Meeker are calling on the state Department of Transportation to speed up construction of more of Interstate 540 in eastern Wake County.

The Eastern Wake Expressway would stretch from Garner to Knightdale, south of the U.S. Highway 64 Bypass.

Although the officials are eager for a sign of progress, the project has no start date, and planners have big bottlenecks to overcome before construction can begin.

"There's no funding or no schedule to build it,” Meeker said.

Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said he supports making the expressway a toll road if that gets it built faster. Meeker said he thinks it is too early to know whether putting tolls on the road is the solution.

"We need to do what we can on a fair timeline to get things expedited. If toll roads are a part of the discussion, we need to give it some consideration,” Williams said.

Officials estimated that without tolls, it could take 20 years longer to build the road. The most recently opened portion of the highway was designated as N.C. Highway 540, not I-540, so that tolls are a legal possibility at some point in the future. Using federal money for toll roads is problematic.

Raleigh has passed a resolution asking for the required environmental impact study to be done as quickly as possible.

"That's the way things get done, because you've got to stay behind some agencies to push them. Stay behind them, and let them know your message is loud and clear and to get things expedited,” Williams said.

The city's resolution also called for the state to protect land from public and private development. DOT officials said they will take the resolution into consideration.