The president of Meredith College says the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plans to widen the Beltline in West Raleigh will eat up valuable chunks of her campus and is asking DOT to go back to the drawing board.
Jo Allen will speak at a public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 8, that is expected to draw others who will be impacted when DOT widens the Beltline from four to six lanes and reconfigures several interchanges between Wade Avenue and Walnut Street in Cary. The hearing at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center at 1101 Gorman St. in Raleigh will begin with an open house from 4:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a formal presentation at 7 p.m.
Plans put forth by the N.C. Department of Transportation are not reasonable as they could wipe out a significant portion of the western side of Meredith’s campus.
Jo Allen, president of Meredith College
NCDOT expects to spend at least $400 million on a 3.5-mile stretch of Interstate 440 that dates back to 1960. It’s the only four-lane section of the Beltline, causing traffic bottlenecks that also result in a relatively high number of crashes, said Joey Hopkins, the DOT district engineer in charge of the project.
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Hopkins acknowledged that the DOT’s current plans for the project would affect property owners and institutions that line the Beltline, as the state takes land to accommodate the wider highway and reconfigured interchanges. They include N.C. State University, the N.C. Museum of Art, the owners and residents of dozens of homes and apartments – and Meredith, where parking lots and athletic fields the college plans to use for future growth would largely be taken by DOT.
“Meredith College appreciates the need to improve I-440’s traffic flow,” Allen said in a statement released Monday. “But plans put forth by the N.C. Department of Transportation are not reasonable as they could wipe out a significant portion of the western side of Meredith’s campus. Meredith’s students, faculty, staff and supporters call upon the N.C. Department of Transportation to come up with more equitable plans that pose fewer impacts on this historic campus.”
The challenge for DOT engineers is that the I-440 corridor is narrow, with buildings and property on both sides. Shifting the road away from Meredith’s campus would simply take more property on the other side, where the University Club already stands to lose all its tennis courts and its parking lot.