Town leaders are praising Gov. Pat McCrory’s plan to make U.S. 1 between Wake Forest and Raleigh a freeway, a change local officials have been pushing for a decade.
The $206.6 million project would convert the heavily traveled road into a freeway between Interstate 540 in Raleigh and U.S. 98 in Wake Forest. Work would begin in 2023, if the Department of Transportation can fund projects as they are laid out in McCrory’s plan.
The governor recently released a 10-year transportation spending plan, the first to use a “strategic mobility formula.” The idea is to improve roads that need it the most, while considering factors such as how often the roads are traveled.
Turning U.S. 1 into a freeway has always been a priority, Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones said. But the town wasn’t expecting it to happen as soon as nine years from now.
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“Being able to move this forward at least 10 years sooner than we even thought we’d start talking about it, that’s a great thing,” Jones said.
Chip Russell, Wake Forest’s planning director, said conversations about a freeway began in the early 2000s. In 2006, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization created an early plan for a freeway in the area. Raleigh and Wake Forest both included the freeway in their transportation plans.
U.S. 1 is a major thoroughfare for commuters heading to Raleigh for work. Traffic often backs up at traffic lights during peak times. A freeway would eliminate traffic lights on the road and would likely increase the speed limit.
“I think the governor’s plan of basing roadwork on need is a great plan,” Jones said. “When you do that, this is the kind of thing that happens.”
Jones said turning the road into a freeway could help Wake Forest attract new businesses.
Russell said the project could lure developers to build in town, and it would ease residents’ commutes.
“Anyone who has experienced Capital Boulevard in the last several years knows it’ll make a difference,” he said. “That peak hour rush time is where it’s really going to help.”
The freeway would also help commuters in Franklin County get to Raleigh faster.
Plans to widen 10.4 miles of U.S. 1 to Louisburg in Franklin County are delayed indefinitely in McCrory’s plan. The state had planned for the project after the U.S. 401 bypass of Rolesville is complete.
“It’s really important for us and for the people farther north of us for (U.S. 1) to get fixed,” Jones said.