Road Roundup: Money problems delay road projects

Posted February 19, 2019 12:08 p.m. EST

WRAL Traffic

A money crunch is forcing the state to delay some major road projects around the Triangle.

Last week, I told you about the draft version of the NCDOT's State Transportation Improvement Program, which lays out construction projects for the next 10 years. We're now getting a closer look at some of the changes.

"Despite prior indications from NCDOT regarding the interest in accelerating project delivery, it now appears that a number of large projects will be delayed," wrote Raleigh's transportation planning manager, Eric Lamb, in a memo to City Manager Ruffin Hall. Lamb says the NCDOT blames lower revenue forecasts.

Some of the bigger projects in Wake County facing construction delays under the proposal include:

  • Adding lanes to I-40 between U.S. 1/I-440 and Lake Wheeler Rd., delayed from 2022 to 2023;
  • Converting U.S. 1 to a freeway from I-540 to Harris Rd., delayed from 2021 to 2024;
  • Completing NC-540 from I-40 to I-87, delayed from 2027 to 2028;
  • Widening U.S. 70 from Hilburn Dr. to I-540, delayed from 2023 to 2028;
  • Upgrading Capital Blvd. from I-540 to Harris Road, delayed until 2023;
  • Adding lanes to Wade Ave. between I-40 and I-440, delayed from 2023 to 2025;
  • Converting the U.S. 401 intersection at N.C. 55 and N.C. 42 in Fuquay-Varina to an interchange, delayed from 2022 to 2024;
  • Upgrading U.S. 64 between U.S. 1 in Cary and Laura Duncan Rd., in Apex, delayed from 2022 to 2024;

A few projects in Durham and Orange counties also face construction delays, including:

  • Adding lanes to N.C. 147 between I-40 and Future I-885 (East End Connector), delayed from 2022 to 2023;
  • Adding auxiliary lanes and other improvements to N.C. 147 from West Chapel Hill St. to Briggs Ave., delayed from 2022 to 2023;
  • Upgrading the U.S. 15-501 corridor between N.C. 86 to I-40 in Chapel Hill, delayed from 2026 to 2028.

Some previously planned projects have been removed in the draft proposal. A project to bring "express" toll lanes to I-540 has been canceled.  At this point, there are no projects in the state's plans to increase capacity along 540.  The plan also cancels improvements along U.S. 401 in Fuquay-Varina between Judd Pkwy. and the N.C. 55/42 intersection, as well as upgrades at the U.S. 1/N.C. 55 interchange in Apex.

Joe Milazzo II, executive director of the Regional Transportation Alliance, which advocates for transportation projects on behalf of the Triangle's business community, called the construction delays "brutal." He's especially concerned about the proposed unfunding of the 540 express shoulder project.

"The plan is still draft, so the regional business community remains hopeful that NCDOT and the Turnpike Authority can find a way to allow express shoulder lanes to move forward as a low-cost, high impact rush hour mobility option for at least a portion of the 540 corridor in North Raleigh," Milazzo said.

Some projects have been accelerated in the draft plan. The U.S. 70 freeway upgrade between I-540 and T.W. Alexander Dr. now is scheduled to begin construction in 2020, and construction to replace the Capital Blvd. bridge over Crabtree Creek has been accelerated from 2025 to 2021, Lamb wrote. The draft plan accelerates widening I-40 to six lanes between I-85 in Hillsborough to N.C. 147 in Durham, with construction now beginning in 2022.

The DOT plan also adds some new projects in the Triangle, including:

  • Converting U.S. 70 Business to a superstreet between Greenfield Pkwy. in Garner and N.C. 42 in Clayton could begin construction in 2029;
  • Widening and converting U.S. 401 between Simpkins Rd. and Mechanical Blvd. in Garner could begin construction in 2027;
  • Adding ramp metering to large sections of I-40, I-440, I-87 and U.S. 1 in Wake County could begin construction in 2028;
  • Adding ramp metering to I-40 between N.C. 54 in Durham to Wade Ave. in Raleigh could begin construction in 2025;
  • Widening I-87 to six lanes between U.S. 64 Business and U.S. 264 could begin construction in 2028;
  • Widening I-85 between Midland Terrace and Red Mill Rd. in Durham could begin construction in 2027.

The NCDOT is accepting public comments about the proposal until April 15. The N.C. Board of Transportation will approve the final plan in June.

Progress on Citrix Cycle

I told you earlier this month about some of the delays surrounding Raleigh's CitrixCycle bike-sharing program. Eric Lamb, the city's transportation planning manager, tells me they're in the final stages of the permitting process and installations will begin shortly. We should get some more information soon about when you can bike from dock to dock around central Raleigh.

Wayne County widening project

NCDOT plans to widen a section of U.S. 13 in Wayne County. It would expand N. Berkeley Blvd. to a four-lange road with a raised median between New Hope Rd. and Saulston Rd. The project would upgrade signals on U.S. 13 in that area and realign Hood Swamp Rd. and Central Heights Rd. to create safer intersections.

The state hopes to award the $25 million project in 2023.

You can learn more at a public meeting Tuesday, February 26, at Maxwell Regional Agriculture Center on Wayne Memorial Dr. in Goldsboro.