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You’ll hardly recognize the Mitchell Mill-U.S. 401 intersection if these changes go through

One of two options for reconfiguring the intersection of Ligon Mill and Mitchell Mill roads with U.S. 401 involves building a bridge over 401 and a new spur road that connects to Ligon Mill. New ramps south of the bridge would carry traffic from eastbound Ligon Mill onto southbound U.S. 401 and from northbound 401 onto eastbound Mitchell Mill. All other turns would be made at the new spur road at a new traffic light north of the current intersection.
One of two options for reconfiguring the intersection of Ligon Mill and Mitchell Mill roads with U.S. 401 involves building a bridge over 401 and a new spur road that connects to Ligon Mill. New ramps south of the bridge would carry traffic from eastbound Ligon Mill onto southbound U.S. 401 and from northbound 401 onto eastbound Mitchell Mill. All other turns would be made at the new spur road at a new traffic light north of the current intersection. NCDOT

To improve the flow of traffic where Mitchell Mill and Ligon Mill roads meet U.S. 401, state Department of Transportation engineers considered 10 different ways they could reconfigure the intersection.

Now they’ve narrowed the options down to two, which they plan to present to the public at a meeting in North Raleigh on Tuesday evening.

Both look very different from what is there now.

One involves building a bridge that would carry Mitchell Mill and Ligon Mill roads over U.S. 401. New ramps south of the bridge, nearest the Neuse River, would take traffic from Ligon Mill onto southbound U.S. 401 and from northbound 401 onto Mitchell Mill.

All other turns would be made at a new spur off Ligon Mill Road that would meet U.S. 401 at a new traffic light north of the current intersection.

The other option is more complicated. Instead of one intersection, there would be two, and Ligon Mill and Mitchell Mill would not meet as they do now.

At the existing intersection, Mitchell Mill traffic would still be able to turn right or left at U.S. 401, while drivers going north on U.S. 401 would be able to turn right on to Mitchell Mill. Ligon Mill Road would be closed off there.

Southbound 401 traffic turning left onto Mitchell Mill would cross over northbound traffic at a separate light several hundred feet north of the intersection, then proceed to Mitchell Mill to make the left turn. This kind of turn is what traffic engineers call a continuous flow intersection, which are rare in North Carolina. NCDOT will have a video at Tuesday’s meeting to show how it would work here.

Ligon Road would be realigned to meet 401 at the second intersection about 1,500 feet north of the existing one.

The result of both scenarios is that through traffic on U.S. 401 would be brought to a stop less often than it is now, reducing backups, particularly during rush hour. NCDOT says about 59,800 cars and trucks pass through the intersection each day on average, and expects that number to grow to 93,200 by 2040.

“Right now, that four-way intersection with the red light they have there and the timing of it is just causing things to grind to a halt,” said John Conforti, the senior project manager for NCDOT. “This reduces the amount of red time for a lot of the movements, and it keeps some of the movements freer flowing.”

Conforti said morning traffic from Mitchell Mill onto U.S. 401 should move better as well.

Most of the options NCDOT considered for overhauling the intersection involved turning it into an interchange. But with the Neuse River and neighborhoods close by, traditional interchanges were just too large, Conforti said. Of the two finalists, the bridge option requires more real estate and could result in the demolition of as many as 18 houses, he said.

NCDOT will answer questions about the two plans and take feedback from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, 3328 Forestville Road. People can also send comments until Jan. 5 to jgconforti@ncdot.gov or by mail to Diane Wilson at NCDOT-EAU, 1598 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1598.

NCDOT expects to begin requiring property for the $63 million project in 2020, with construction to start in 2022.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 19 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.


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