Residents fighting proposed U.S. 64 expansion
Posted June 4, 2009 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2009 6:42 p.m. EDT
Cary, N.C. — A group of Apex and Cary residents are fighting a state Department of Transportation proposal to expand a stretch of U.S. Highway 64 that runs through their towns into an expressway.
The U.S. 64 expansion begins at the U.S. 64 Business/U.S. 64 Bypass Interchange, east of Pittsboro in Chatham County, and extends east to the U.S. 1/U.S. Highway 64 interchange in Cary in Wake County.
It includes 2 miles across Jordan Lake, and is approximately 1,000 feet on each side of U.S. 64.
The two-phase plan, as it currently stands, would mean restricting left turns and putting in U-turns for better traffic flow anywhere from five to 10 years.
The second phase would turn a two-mile stretch from U.S. 64/U.S. 1 in Cary to Laura Duncan Road in Apex into an elevated highway, meaning interstate traffic flows on the top road with local access underneath. It would take an additional 10 to 25 years to complete.
"It's really to develop a master plan to guide growth and development along this corridor," Dave Wasserman, a DOT project engineer, said of the plan.
A team of DOT staff, Apex, Cary, Wake County and Chatham County officials, developed the plan, which is in its early stages and has no sources of funding. The DOT says a rough cost estimate would be about $400 million but that the cost would likely change.
"This is one of the better solutions out there," Wasserman said.
Wasserman said that traffic in the area will only get worse and that it is focusing on U.S. 64 between Cary and Pittsboro because it is another route from Raleigh to Charlotte.
Some residents and business owners have started a blog, save64.org, to help raise awareness of the project and have been collecting signatures in an effort to stop the project.
"It's just going to be bring more traffic into the area – more pollution, air and noise," said Cary resident Danny Epstein.
Some business owners along the highway, however, said they worry that despite increased traffic, they believe they would see customer traffic drop because of the proposed expressway.
"The traffic will have to go down access roads to come back into our business," said Michael Windle, who owns Scruffy Duck Wash at U.S. 64 and Laura Duncan Road.. "That'll have an impact on people's convenience."
Windle also said he believes N.C. Highway 540 should be completed first and act as a bypass.
Driver safety, especially among young motorists, is another concern. Apex High School is also right off U.S. 64 on Laura Duncan Road.
"You have the youngest drivers in the business, and now, you're going to make this road a little more dangerous?" Apex resident Edwin Yarter said.
DOT officials point out that the 2-mile elevated expressway would mean speeds of 45 to 55 mph, while higher speeds would be on the remaining 17 miles.
Public opinion on the proposal ends June 5 but the DOT does plan to host a community meeting on the issue in July. A time, date and location have not been set.
"We want to make sure everyone's involved and engaged with the study." Wasserman said.
Epstein said the issue is worth the fight to preserve the way of life in the area.
He said it is important that roads stay in character with the residential and business areas and that an elevated expressway will divide the community.
"There's nobody in this community that wants to see this expressway in 50 years or 100 years," he said. "This is not a vision of what's good for the community."