Wake County residents will have a new way in and out of Research Triangle Park on a road the state Department of Transportation plans to build in Morrisville starting in 2019.
The state plans to connect a section of Louis Stephens Drive near the Breckenridge community in Morrisville with a stretch of the road that goes through RTP, past the corporate campuses of NetApp, Cisco and Credit Suisse. NCDOT will let the public see its preliminary plans for the extension of Louis Stephens at an open house at Morrisville Town Hall on Thursday, Dec. 7.
The new road would provide an alternative to N.C. 55 or Davis Drive in and out of RTP, says Ben Howell, the long-range planning manager for Morrisville. Howell said many residents of Breckenridge, the town’s largest residential development, will welcome a direct commuting route to RTP that takes them off busy Davis Drive.
At the same time, the connection to RTP will put more traffic on what is now a dead-end road that skirts the western edge of Breckenridge. Some residents may lament the loss of the peace and quiet they’ve enjoyed.
“It will become more of a commuter route certainly for people who live down in Cary trying to get into that portion of RTP,” Howell said. “I think from the town’s perspective, more connectivity is good. But we wouldn’t want it to become a freeway through there.”
The connection of Louis Stephens Drive has been on the town’s transportation plan since 2009, when construction on N.C. 540, the Western Wake Expressway, got started. Louis Stephens will pass underneath the highway, under a bridge that was built in anticipation that the connection would someday be made.
Coming south out of RTP, Louis Stephens Drive now ends at Little Drive, which connects to Davis Drive, and an isolated section of O’Kelly Chapel Road. The town of Cary eventually plans to extend O’Kelly Chapel Road across a set of railroad tracks and into the Parkside Town Commons retail complex on N.C. 55.
Louis Stephens Drive is primarily a two-lane road in Morrisville and RTP, and the new section will be two lanes as well. But there’s room for four lanes in RTP, and NCDOT plans to acquire enough right-of-way that the new stretch of Louis Stephens can someday be widened to four lanes, too, said Roger Kluckman, the project manager for DOT.
Kluckman said construction of the new road is expected to start in the summer of 2019 and cost nearly $2.6 million. He said the plans NCDOT will present Thursday will be preliminary and could be influenced by public feedback. There will be no formal presentation at the open house, and people are welcome to come and go at any time between 4 and 7 p.m.
Kluckman will also accept comments by email, phone or mail through Dec. 22 at firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-220-4717 or 2612 North Duke St., Durham, N.C., 27704.
The extension of Louis Stephens Drive is part of a flurry of new road construction and widening planned for Morrisville in the coming years. Among the other projects in the works is the widening of N.C. 54, the extension of N.C. 147 from where it now ends at the Western Wake Expressway down to McCrimmon Parkway, and the extension of McCrimmon Parkway to Aviation Parkway, where it will connect with Evans Road.