U.S. 70 is the most heavily traveled road in Garner, with 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles daily. And with millions of dollars in scheduled improvements, it has a prominent place in Garner’s $35.7 million worth of bond referendums.
A big chunk of the money from a bond issue would widen a section, add lighting and landscaping to improve aesthetics and safety, improve the intersection at Jessup Drive and increase access to downtown. Town leaders hope investment in the road will spur continued development of a rapidly growing commercial area of Garner.
At nearly $15 million, the streets and sidewalks bond referendum represents the largest bond measure on the March 12 ballot. U.S. 70 would get $4.475 million if the bond passes.
“We are trying to make it a safer highway, a wider highway and a highway that will be less congested,” Councilman Gra Singleton said.
Of the $4.475 million, the biggest share, $3.2 million, would go toward widening U.S. 70 between New Rand Road and Morris Drive. That would launch the town toward its goal of widening the artery throughout Garner.
“We want to widen it to three travel lanes in each direction, but it is costly to do that all at one time,” said town planner Brad Bass.
A shared state and federal project to improve U.S. 70 at White Oak will widen U.S. 70 from Interstate 40 to Morris Drive. That means the highway would have three lanes each way from Interstate 40 to New Rand Road.
“Any time you can add more lanes to travel on, that is going to help with the congestion issue,” said town engineer Frank Powell.
In planning for the bond issue, the town considered widening further west. But the bridge at N.C. 50 (Benson Road) would need to be modified, an expense the town decided to forgo for now. The bridge at Vandora Springs Road further west would present a similar problem.
About $900,000 of the bond money would go toward landscaping and lighting along the highway, which is drab in appearance and largely darker than many such thoroughfares at night.
“Before White Oak (Crossings) came, it was just a black hole out there,” Singleton said. “This will make it safer and also more attractive from an economic-development standpoint. It is a major corridor for Garner.”
Singleton said he expects major developments this year on all three undeveloped corners of White Oak Road and U.S. 70. Those projects, he said, will add to the tax base and show the importance of investing in infrastructure.
“Good and well-maintained roadways are vital to economic development,” Singleton said.
To keep traffic moving
Powell said the lighting and landscaping would not disrupt traffic much. He said that widening project would likely slow traffic, though Garner planners hope to keep two lanes open at all times.
The U.S. 70 intersection at Jessup Drive would see $375,000 in work. The money would widen eastbound U.S. 70 to three lanes from McCormick Street to Timber Drive. Currently, a third lane extends from Mechanical Boulevard to McCormick Street but ends in a right-turn lane.
Meanwhile, new access points to U.S. 70 await N.C. Department of Transportation approval, but Powell said preliminary indications are that the state will say yes.
Because of the proximity of other stoplights, planners rules out a full new intersection for downtown access. Instead, the town hopes to install a left-hand turn into Montague Street and a protected left turn back onto U.S. 70 from Purvis Street, after Purvis is extended south from downtown to meet U.S. 70.
Currently, cars can turn right from westbound U.S. 70 onto Montague and right from Montague onto westbound U.S. 70. But eastbound traffic on U.S. 70 has no access to Main Street between Benson Road and New Rand Road.
Overall, the town would spend about $4.9 million to improve access to downtown Garner. This includes buying land to lengthen Purvis and improve Montague, Purvis and New Rand.