The federal government is kicking in nearly $20 million for the planned underpass that will carry Blue Ridge Road under Hillsborough Street and the railroad tracks near the State Fairgrounds.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has won a $19.9 million grant to help pay for a project that will eliminate what NCDOT calls the most complicated intersection in North Carolina. About two dozen trains a day cross Blue Ridge Road at the intersection with Hillsborough and a third street, Beryl Road.
The state plans to send Blue Ridge more than 20 feet below grade under new bridges for Hillsborough, Beryl and the railroad tracks. A new connector road in the northeast corner of the intersection, near the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine, will take drivers between Blue Ridge and Hillsborough, with new traffic lights at each end. Blue Ridge will get another new traffic light south of the tracks at Pylon Drive, which will carry traffic between Beryl and Blue Ridge.
It's all expected to cost about $33.5 million, and NCDOT already had the money set aside for it. The grant will allow NCDOT to spend that $19.9 million elsewhere, said spokesman Steve Abbott.
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The underpass project will be done in conjunction with the planned widening of the Beltline between Wade Avenue and Interstate 40, which involves reconfiguring the Hillsborough Street interchange.
NCDOT expects to award a single contract for both projects in July. The contractor will finish the final designs before beginning construction, probably in late spring or summer in 2019, Abbott said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis, both Republicans, and U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat whose district includes much of Raleigh, announced the federal grant this week.
It comes from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER program, which Congress created in 2009 in part to help the country recover from the Great Recession. President Trump proposed to eliminate TIGER grants last year, but Congress did not go along. Trump's proposed budget this year also seeks to end the program.