Final Beltline widening plans will be presented at Raleigh transportation fair

The public will get its first glimpse Monday of the final plans to widen Interstate 440 between Wade Avenue and Cary, including new configurations for interchanges along the four-mile stretch of highway.

Detailed drawings developed by contractors on the Beltline project will be presented at a transportation fair put on by the N.C. Department of Transportation. Among other things, they show the planned “diverging diamond” interchange at Western Boulevard and a new pattern at Wade Avenue with three levels of traffic.

The NCDOT will use Monday’s event to provide updates and answer questions about two dozen projects that are in the works or underway in the Wake County area. The fair runs from 4 to 7 p.m. at the McKimmon Center, 1101 Gorman St.

A team of contractors led by The Lane Construction Corp. is expected to begin construction this year to widen the last four-lane stretch of the Beltline to six lanes. The four-year project includes rebuilding the interchanges with Wade Avenue, Hillsborough Street, Western Boulevard, Melbourne Road and Jones Franklin Road.

The Beltline project has put people on edge since it was announced in the summer of 2017. The wider highway and NCDOT’s intent on reconfiguring the interchanges to make traffic move better requires taking property along the corridor, including several acres from the N.C. State University Club and from Meredith College off Hillsborough Street.

The contractors who created the final designs being presented Monday were encouraged to reduce the road’s footprint wherever possible.

The interchanges at Western Boulevard and Wade Avenue will change dramatically.

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NCDOT plans for the Western Boulevard interchange at the Beltline in Raleigh. NCDOT/Google Earth

At Western, the designers propose to replace the tight cloverleafs and short exit and entrance ramps with a diverging diamond that involves crisscrossing traffic on Western on either side of the Beltline in a way that eliminates left turns on and off the highway. It’s one of several diverging diamonds planned in the Triangle, which doesn’t have one yet.

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NCDOT plans for the Wade Avenue interchange at the Beltline in Raleigh. NCDOT / Google Earth

At Wade Avenue, new bridges would carry ramps over Wade and the Beltline, allowing designers to eliminate two of the three cloverleafs there now. Among the bridges is one that will carry westbound Wade over both the Beltline and a new ramp from eastbound Wade onto northbound I-440.

The NCDOT organized the first transportation fair last year in Raleigh after lamenting that people often don’t learn about road construction projects before they get started. The full list of projects that will be highlighted on Monday can be found at www.ncdot.gov/raleigh and include the planned completion of the Triangle Expressway across southern Wake County and the conversion of U.S. 70 into a freeway from Brier Creek into Durham County.

Representatives from the City of Raleigh, GoRaleigh and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization also will be there to offer information about local projects and the Wake Transit Plan. There will be no formal presentations; people can drop by anytime between 4 and 7 p.m.

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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 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.