Along Clayton’s highway corridors, two interchanges on the outskirts of town are most likely to welcome development.
On the southeast side of town, the U.S. 70 and U.S. 70 Business interchange is surrounded by hundreds of acres of farmland, most of which is now for sale. With the highways, rail lines and biomanufacturers Grifols and Novo Nordisk nearby, the farmland appears suited for industrial or commercial use.
On the southwest side of town, more than 500 undeveloped acres surround the N.C. 42 West and U.S. 70 interchange. While Clayton leaders expect residential growth to continue in the area, Johnston Health and other medical providers could drive further office and commercial uses.
The Town of Clayton paid a consultant $86,000 to study both interchanges to determine what road, water and sewer improvements they will need in the future. The studies, published earlier this month by Morrisville-based URS Corp., recommended $60-$80 million in upgrades by 2040.
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Town Manager Steve Biggs said his office can use the studies as a tool when meeting with developers or businesses, which often ask for basic information about sites.
While the acreage around the interchanges isn’t in Clayton’s town limits, the land is within the town’s planning jurisdiction. Clayton also provides utilities in both areas.
“This is what I think our role is in economic development,” Biggs said. “The industries seek you out, but once they get here, it’s all about flow of information.”
Having that information available, especially online, can mean the difference between getting a second or third look from prospects, said Chris Johnson, director of Johnston County Economic Development.
Johnson’s office works with industrial prospects eyeing Clayton but refers most retail, commercial and residential developers to town staff.
“A lot of times communities are being considered without even being aware and are being eliminated by the amount of information out there,” Johnson said.
Johnson agreed that the U.S. 70-U.S. 70 Business interchange is poised for industrial use. In addition to being close to rail, water and sewer, U.S. 70 provides quick access to interstates 95 and 40, he said.
Johnson said he has pitched land near the interchange to several industrial prospects. But those prospects have passed on the land for a variety of reasons, including competition from other states, he said.
“That’s not saying those sites are bad, but just that the site consultants have to figure out a way to get their list down to five to six places,” Johnson said.
The URS study of the U.S. 70-U.S. 70 Business interchange predicts that the heavy farm use in the area will shrink by 2040. Residential, commercial and industrial uses will become more prominent, it says.
The shift will cause the population of residents and people who work near the interchange to jump from 3,400 to more than 8,000, according to the study.
To handle that growth, URS recommended:
▪ More than $9.9 million in traffic improvements. High-priority projects include road upgrades and adding traffic signals on U.S. 70 Business at North Tech Drive, Gordon Road and Sadisco Road. The study also calls for improvements at U.S. 70 Business and West Olive Road, Powhatan Road and along the U.S. 70 eastbound ramps.
▪ Some $17-$20 million in sewer improvements. Currently, sewage from the area flows to either Clayton’s South Tech Lift Station or Johnston County’s North Tech Lift Station. URS recommends that Clayton either expand the South Tech Pump Station or build a new station that could capture all flow in the area. The study also calls for more or bigger sewer lines in the area.
▪ More study of water distribution near the interchange. If the existing system isn’t adequate, URS recommends about $4 million to $6 million in upgrades.
N.C. 42-U.S. 70
Near the N.C. 42-U.S. 70 interchange, about 80 percent of the land is vacant or used for farming, according to the URS study.
By 2040, URS projects the land will have mostly residential uses. Commercial and office uses will increase on the east side of the interchange, near Johnston Health’s Clayton hospital.
The growth will drive the population of residents and workers from about 3,400 to 14,000 in the next 25 years.
More people will lead to more traffic, and URS recommends:
▪ About $12.3 million in road improvements, including $4 million in upgrades to the east- and west-bound ramps onto U.S. 70.
▪ About $20-$32 million in water and sewer improvements that might be needed over the next 25 years.
Clayton Planning Director Dave DeYoung said developers will likely pay for most utility-related costs and some road improvements.
However, the state already plans to widen N.C. 42 West, including portions near the U.S. 70 interchange. The estimated $91 million widening project would span from N.C. 50 in the Cleveland community to U.S. 70 Business in Clayton.
Development is already occurring near the N.C. 42-U.S. 70 interchange. One of the latest examples is Spring Branch Park, a 51-acre mixed-use development next to Johnston Health.
“We certainly expect this area to continue to develop and at some point experience some retail growth,” DeYoung said.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104