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It may take four roundabouts to simplify this confusing highway interchange near Four Oaks

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to overhaul the interchange where U.S. 301, U.S. 701, N.C. 96 and Devils Racetrack Road meet Interstate 95 near Four Oaks.
The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to overhaul the interchange where U.S. 301, U.S. 701, N.C. 96 and Devils Racetrack Road meet Interstate 95 near Four Oaks. NCDOT

Exit 90 from Interstate 95 near Four Oaks is complicated. U.S. 701, U.S. 301, N.C. 96 and Devils Racetrack Road all converge on the interstate here, and do so at oblique angles that result in short exit and entrance ramps.

Now the N.C. Department of Transportation wants to overhaul the interchange, in part to create ramps that give drivers enough space to accelerate or slow down coming on or off the highway. And NCDOT wants to bring more logic to the chaotic confluence of roads, which dates back to 1957, said Jake Green, the project engineer.

“The current interchange is confusing,” Green said in an interview. “And we’re trying to alleviate that confusion by bringing about a more concise interchange.”

The proposed changes, which will be presented at a public workshop Thursday evening at Four Oaks Middle School, don’t appear concise on paper. The plan calls for four roundabouts, two on each side of the highway; someone driving between Smithfield and Newton Grove on U.S. 301 and U.S. 701 would pass through all four.

But Green said the roundabouts will provide more order, by allowing the traffic to move through the intersections without stopping.

“It does slow traffic down,” he said. “But it gives good site distance, and it keeps traffic flowing.”

Green said NCDOT will have handouts, display boards and a “visualization” at the open house to show how the cluster of roundabouts would work.

People will also be able to see what property might have to be taken to accommodate the interchange’s larger footprint. Green said NCDOT tried to minimize the impact to businesses at the interchange, including the Travelers Inn and two gas stations, but the plans show a car repair shop and several homes would be taken.

The open house will run from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, in the “cafetorium” of Four Oaks Middle School.

NCDOT estimates that rebuilding the interchange will cost about $23.7 million, including planning and right-of-way. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022 and take about two years to complete.

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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