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The FAST Act brings two new Interstate corridors to North Carolina - expands another

The highway bill known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) is passed and signed into law.  The 1,305 page bill has a lot items to it and future impacts to transportation in North Carolina are inside the bill.  This includes the creation of two new Interstate corridors and the extension of another.  As for the numbering of the new corridors, I'll discuss in a later post.

High Priority Corridor 81:


The first is the creation of High Priority Corridor 81 - this lists as including US 117 and Interstate 795 and runs from US 70 in Goldsboro southwards to Interstate 40 in Faison.  In short, this will extend I-795 from Goldsboro to I-40 in Faison.  North Carolina has had on their agenda for numerous years making a freeway route from I-40 northwards to I-95 in Wilson.  The current Interstate 795 is the north half of this.

The southern half consists of US 117.  A number of steps are needed to make this section of US 117 and Interstate.  First, US 117 from Goldsboro south to US 13 in Mar-Mac will need to be bypassed.  This western bypass of Goldsboro has been kicked around by NCDOT for at least 20 years.  In fact, some early preliminary studies date to 1994.   In the past month, the Governor's office has announced that numerous projects throughout the state have been accelerated as a result of recent budget reforms.  The Goldsboro Western Bypass benefits from this change - albeit slightly.  The state will begin right-of-way acquisition along the project (U-3125) beginning in 2024.  Construction is currently unfunded.

Project U-3125 consists of the Western Goldsboro Bypass and upgrading the Dudley Bypass of US 117 (opened in 1990) to freeway/interstate standards.  One piece of that upgrade will occur prior to 2025.  The current at-grade intersections with Oberry Road and Country Club Roads will be converted to interchanges in 2017.  The funding acceleration program both improved the start date on both interchanges by three and four years, respectively.

South of NC 55 - US 117 will need a number of at-grade closings that will need to be eliminated along with probable interchanges where US 117 leaves to Faison, NC 50, NC 403 and at Interstate 40.  Some of these intersections with state highways may only be overpasses and not interchanges.  From the best of what I can tell, any improvements along this section of the corridor are currently unfunded.


High Priority Corridor 82:


Since Interstate 40 was routed from Raleigh to Wilmington  instead of Morehead City in the late 70s, North Carolina continued its push for a four-lane corridor from Raleigh to Morehead City along US 70.  Over the years, this desire for a four lane highway has evolved to building a full fledge freeway towards the Crystal Coast.  The FAST Act now takes it one step further and makes US 70 from I-40 near Clayton to Morehead City an Interstate corridor. 

The state of various sections along the approximately 135 mile corridor varies from interstate grade freeway, expressway to five-lane boulevards.  There are plans for numerous bypasses along the route of Kinston, Havelock, and within Carteret County.

If the state receives various approvals, two sections of highway could be designated an Interstate today.  Both the Clayton and soon to be completed Goldsboro bypasses meet interstate standards and connect to existing routes on the Interstate System.  Interstate 40 in Clayton and Interstate 795 in Goldsboro, respectively. 

In addition, a number of projects are underway or will be in the next few years to slowly bring the rest of the corridor to Interstate standards.  The current / future funded projects include:
  • Construction of two interchanges near Pine Level.  (Peedin Road Extension and Davis Mill/Stevens Chapel Rds) Project W-5107.  This project is currently under construction and should be completed by 2018.  This will eliminate two traffic lights along US 70 and median crossings.  However, there will still need to be some at-grade closures along with possible concerns with the Davis Mill/Stevens Chapel Roads interchange.  The interchange is a quadrant interchange and may need future upgrading.
  • Construction of two interchanges near Wilson Mills.  These interchanges will eliminate traffic signals at Swift Creek and Wilson Mills Roads.  Project W-5600.  Construction should begin in 2020.  The official description on NCDOT's website is to upgrade to freeway from US 70 Business to the Neuse River Bridge.  Expected completion is in 2022.
  • Construction of the Havelock BypassProject R-1015.  This 10.3 mile bypass of Havelock is set to begin construction in 2018.  This bypass will be built to interstate standards and will consist of three interchanges (one each at the bypass' terminal points with US 70 and with Lake Road).  Though it will be ready to be an interstate once opened, this will most likely be one of the last sections of the new interstate to be signed.
  • James City Upgrades - East of the Neuse River Bridge and New Bern, NC DOT is looking to upgrade 2.5 of US 70 to a freeway.  Project U-5713.
Other projects to improve the rest of the corridor are unfunded.  These include upgrading US 70 to a full freeway from I-95 east to the Goldsboro bypass.  This would involve eliminating numerous at-grade intersections, business and residential driveway access.  Two traffic lights in Princeton would be removed and the intersection with US 70A in Princeton would be improved to most likely an interchange. 

Bypassing Kinston is the largest of the unfunded corridor projects.  Plans are to build the bypass to the south of the city; however, it remains unfunded and a projected start of construction dates are unknown.  It is possible that the designation of US 70 as a High Priority Corridor may focus the state to fund this project sooner. 

Finally, the segment from James City to the Havelock Bypass.  Project R-5777.  This project will upgrade US 70 to a freeway connecting James City to Havelock.  This project sat unfunded for years - but the recent accelerated schedule announced by the Governor's office has right of way acquisition beginning in 2025.

High Priority Corridor 13:


The Raleigh to Norfolk corridor that uses US 64, 13, and 17 was one of the original High Priority Corridors signed into law in 1991.  The FAST Act defined the route further and also officially designated  HPC 13 as a "Future Interstate Corridor". 

The route consists of US 64 from Interstate 440 in Raleigh eastwards to Williamston where the route will turn north on US 13 & 17 towards Windsor. At Windsor, the corridor follows US 17 eastwards and then northwards past Elizabeth City and into Virginia.

A portion of this corridor - US 64 from Raleigh to Interstate 95 in Rocky Mount - has been designated as Interstate 495.  Interstate 495 is presently signed from Interstate 440 eastwards to Interstate 540 in Knightdale.  The highway from that point until the terminus at Rocky Mount is designated as 'Future Interstate 495'.  The freeway continues as interstate standard from 540 to the Rolesville Road interchange (Exit 430).  From that point until Rocky Mount, the freeway will need to be improved to meet interstate standards.   This varies to shoulder widening for the entirety of the route  to exit ramp lengthening and bridge upgrades around Nashville.  Currently, there are no funded plans to improve this stretch of US 64 to Interstate standards.  There are long term plans to widen US 64/264 to six lanes from Exit 430 to the 64/264 split in Zebulon (Exit 436); however, they remain unfunded. 

East of Interstate 95 - the US 64 freeway will need to be improved to interstate standards through Rocky Mount and to Tarboro.  Newer sections of the US 64 freeway that were opened from Tarboro to Williamston appear to meet Interstate standards (at the time of this post - it had been a year since the author had driven this section of 64 and I didn't pay that close attention).

Between Williamston and Windsor - US 13/17 will need to be upgraded from a four lane divided boulevard or built on a new alignment.  I am unaware of any long term plans for this section of highway.

The Windsor Bypass will need to be upgraded to Interstate standards.  Although access is somewhat controlled, the at-grades will need to be eliminated and the freeway section east of US 13 will need to see at a minimum widened shoulders.  US 17 will need various upgrades or possible realignments from Windsor to Elizabeth City.
  • The state has funded plans for upgrading the US 17 freeway from south end of the Chowan River Bridge to the US 17 Business Interchange (Exit 230) to Interstate standards.  This project is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2025.  Project R-5731.
The US 17 Elizabeth City Bypass - although a full freeway - will need widened shoulders to meet Interstate status.  North of Elizabeth City to the Virginia border - US 17 will need to be upgraded.  The routing of US 17 through the Dismal Swamp will most likely be upgraded with no new alignment; however, this may be the most environmentally sensitive area and there could be serious litigation to have any freeway improvements built through here.

For the entire section north and east of Williamston, NCDOT is currently conducting a feasibility study (FS-1501A) for upgrading the entire 70+ miles to Interstate standards. 



Comments

Napoleon Reese said…
Road cronyism!! And I-77 would not be widened with free lanes!! US 70 is the road to cronyism!

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