The N.C. Department of Transportation is drafting its next 10-year traffic-improvement plan, and some Johnston County projects have made the cut, though drivers will have to wait years for most of them.
For example, in Smithfield, the state plans to replace the hybrid diamond-cloverleaf interchange on I-95 at U.S. 70 Business with a diamond-only interchange like the one at I-95 and Keen Road in Four Oaks. Also, the DOT also plans to replace the bridge at that interchange with a wider one.
But Smithfield leaders, who have long championed a new interchange, will have to be patient. The DOT expects that $14.3 million project to begin 10 years from now, in 2026.
Commuters who use two-lane N.C. 42 West in Clayton and the Cleveland community will get relief a little sooner than that. Starting in 2021, the state plans to widen N.C. 42 West all the way from N.C. 50 to U.S. 70 Business in the heart of Clayton. The $65.1 million project calls for four lanes with a raised median and sidewalks in some areas.
Also in Clayton, the DOT plans to spend $2.1 million in 2023 to install so-called intelligent traffic signals on U.S. 70 Business. The traffic signals use real-time data to keep traffic moving.
Elsewhere in Johnston, the DOT plans to overhaul the much-maligned interchange of I-95 and U.S. 701 in Four Oaks. That interchange is now part diamond, part loop. The $21.1 million overhaul, planned for some time after 2027, calls for a diamond with one loop.
On U.S. 70 in Selma, the DOT in 2025 plans to build a median from U.S. 301 to I-95. The aim of that $10.5 million project is to improve traffic flow by controlling access to that stretch of U.S. 70.
Also in 2025, The DOT plans to build a median on U.S. 301 from Ricks Road in Selma to Booker Dairy Road in Smithfield. That’s a $14.2 million project with a goal of improving traffic flow.
Under the state’s Strategic Transportation Investments law, the DOT now uses traffic data and local input to prioritize and fund transportation projects statewide, regionally and locally. Statewide projects are based entirely on data-driven criteria. Regional projects are based 70 percent on data and 30 percent on local input. Local projects are 50-50.
But not all of the above projects are guaranteed to happen, at least not in the stated year. The DOT updates its 10-year plan every two years. Projects scheduled in the first five years of a plan are considered done deals. That bodes well for the widening of N.C. 42 West in Clayton and the Cleveland community. But projects in the final five years of a 10-year plan will be scored again.
The DOT plans to formalize the next 10-year plan by January 2017. A public-comment period will follow, with adoption scheduled for June of next year.
“A strong transportation network is the backbone of the state’s economy,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “We took the politics out of transportation planning to ensure roads and other important infrastructure are prioritized based on need. These projects demonstrate the process is working as intended to make smart decisions that keep North Carolina moving.”
For more information or for a complete list of projects, go to www.ncdot.gov/strategictransportationinvestments/2018-2027.html.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett