Local News

I-95 changes could include closed exits, tolls

Posted January 28, 2011 3:39 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2011 5:56 p.m. EST

Interstate 95 sign

— The state Department of Transportation is considering closing exits and charging tolls as ways to improve Interstate 95.

A stretch of I-95 in Dunn has hardly changed at all since President Dwight D. Eisenhower exited office 50 years ago. Bridges are browned with age and hang too low for today's taller trucks.

The highway is still just four lanes wide, though the traffic count has been ramping up for decades. The DOT says something has to give, and it wants to widen the clogged section between Fayetteville and Interstate 40 to at least six lanes.

"Are there places where we need to change the intersections? We are going to look at that," said DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty.

Doris Therien, who works as a clerk at a BP gas station at Exit 72, Pope Road, said she is “not too happy” that her exit might be removed. Engineers suggest it might be extraneous, since it’s about a quarter-mile from Exit 73, where a Hampton Inn looms like a beacon.

“It would ruin the business,” Therien said.

Dena Dutton, who manages the BP at Exit 72, agrees.

“If they close this exit, it’s going to kill this area right here, definitely,” she said.

Closing a Dunn exit is no done deal, according to Beaty, who says that North Carolinians all along I-95 are shaping the highway's destiny. A master plan will not be released until November, and it will be crafted with public input from communities along the I-95 corridor.

“In the fall of this year, we’ll have a master plan for the development of I-95,” Beaty said.

How to pay for the potential changes could be a problem since the state’s finances have gone south. One possibility is tolls. DOT officials met with Harnett County and Dunn leaders this week, but the DOT has not given any specifics on how tolls would look or even if they will happen.

Suresh Patel, owner of the Pop Market at Exit 72, said if tolls are required, put them at the state lines, not for each exit.

Beaty said the effort is unprecedented because the DOT usually focuses on how to improve segments of highways, not an entire stretch of interstate in the state.

“You never get an opportunity to look at an interstate from stem to stern,” Beaty said.