New highway fund could speed area road projects

Posted May 28, 2012 3:21 p.m. EDT
Updated May 28, 2012 6:16 p.m. EDT

— Trips to the beach or around the Triangle might get a bit easier in the coming years, thanks to a new pot of state money for road projects.

Gov. Beverly Perdue proposed the Mobility Fund two years ago to generate more money for projects that ease congestion or make the state's transportation system more efficient. Lawmakers will set aside $45 million in the 2012-13 budget for the fund and $58 million a year in subsequent years.

Ninety-five projects, totaling $7.5 billion, were submitted for Mobility Fund dollars, and the state Department of Transportation scored them to determine which would get funding first.

"We'll be ready to fund (some of) these projects as early as this summer," said Don Voelker, director of strategic planning for the DOT.

The first project under the fund will allow buses in the Triangle to use shoulders on major highways during rush hour to bypass congestion.

An $82 million project to widen I-40 to six lanes between U.S. Highway 70 in Garner and the Clayton Bypass ranks high on the Mobility Fund list.

Lee Hargis, who has lived near the N.C. Highway 42 interchange off I-40 all of his life, said commuting on the interstate requires patience and planning.

"Friday afternoon in the summer, it's kind of rough. If you get off at 5, you want to leave around 3 because it's hard to get home," Hargis said. "I changed my hours. I leave at 6 in the morning just so I can get to work."

Other projects to score high on the Mobility Fund list include the following:

  • Upgrade the intersection at Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh
  • Widen Interstate 440 between Interstate 40 and Wade Avenue in Raleigh to six lanes
  • Widen both I-40 and Interstate 85 in Orange County to six lanes each
  • Add lanes and interchanges to Capital Boulevard from Interstate 540 to Thornton Road in Raleigh to make it a highway
  • Provide 25 percent of the $650 million cost of commuter rail from Durham through Garner
  • Widen N.C. Highway 54 to six lanes between I-40 and Barbee Chapel Road in Durham
  • Widen Glenwood Avenue to six lanes from west of Duraleigh Road to west of Triangle Drive in Raleigh and add an interchange at Lynn Road

Some projects remain years off, but Voelker said the Mobility Fund will allow them to be completed earlier than if the state waited for money from other sources to fund them.