State officials plan to transform five miles of U.S. 70 into a freeway, which will likely result in uncertainty and headaches for residents, property and business owners along the route.
Officials will assess all driveways, bus stops, sidewalks and businesses on U.S. 70 from Lynn Road in Durham and west of T.W. Alexander Drive in Raleigh as they seek the best ways to convert the highway into a freeway, where access would be confined to limited interchanges or overpasses.
“We have a lot of access along U.S. 70 now in Durham County, and if we turn this into a freeway that is going to change,” said engineer Joey Hopkins, of the N.C. Department of Transportation. “With change comes conflict.”
An interchange is planned for the U.S. 70 intersection at South Miami Boulevard, which converts into South Mineral Springs Road and Sherron Road.
Never miss a local story.
A key task is preserving access for properties along U.S. 70. The options include pedestrian pathways, service roads and the state buying property and not providing access, Hopkins said.
The stretch of new freeway will connect with two highway upgrades that will bookend the project. To the north is the under-construction East End Connector, which connects the Durham Freeway to U.S. 70. It is expected to be open to traffic by July 2019.
To the south the state is moving forward with converting U.S. 70 intersections at T.W. Alexander Drive and Brier Creek Parkway into interchanges. The change will convert the intersections with stoplights to interchanges that allow a continuous flow of traffic with bridges and ramps.
The environmental assessment for the intersections’ conversion is set to be completed in early 2018. Environmental assessments analyze projects’ community and environmental impact, which influences their design.
The state has allocated $136 million to convert U.S. 70 from Lynn Road to South Miami Boulevard into a freeway. However, the pending environmental assessment set to be completed in early 2019, covers the entire stretch of the five-mile freeway. Additional construction funding could become available during the process.
“We have a gap in the middle that is currently unfunded,” Hopkins said, “but that is still in our plan, and we still hope to get through it.”
The first major milestone of the project is looking at the purpose and need for the freeway extension, said Kristina Miller, an engineer and a consultant for the state highway department.
“After we have that defined, we will coordinate with the businesses and local community as well as our resource agencies,” Miller said. “We will be developing concepts that address the transportation needs and to try to avoid and minimize those impacts as much as possible. “
The U.S. 70 route includes two bus stops, existing school bus routes, churches, businesses, sidewalks and pedestrian activity, along with utility poles.
At this point is that state officials don’t have a lot of answers, he said.
“We don’t know what the impacts will be,” Hopkins said. Before the environmental assessment begins, property owners will be notified via a letter. Over the next year, residents, businesses and property owners will be invited to small group meetings and larger public meetings.
Along the way state officials will be establish alternative access concepts, which will evolve depending on public feedback. Public hearings on proposed access solutions will be held before the final environmental decision document is adopted, which is scheduled for fall 2020.
On Oct. 7 the N.C. Department of Transportation plans to launch a website: www.ncdot.gov/projects/us70durhamraleigh.
For more information, contact: Zahid Baloch: 919-707-6012; firstname.lastname@example.org or Kristina Miller, 919-653-7384; email@example.com.
Upgrade US 70 to a freeway and convert the South Miami Boulevard intersection into an interchange. Dates, which are subject to change during the process, include:
Environmental assessment complete: spring 2019
Environmental decision document: fall 2020
Property acquisition: spring 2022
Construction: spring 2024
Convert the intersections of T.W. Alexander Drive and Brier Creek Parkway with U.S. 70 to interchanges
Environmental assessment complete: winter/early 2018
Environmental decision document: summer 2018
Property acquisition: summer 2019
Construction : 2021