The widening of N.C. 42 east of Clayton is on the short list of transportation projects that Gov. Pat McCrory wants done in rural North Carolina.
Earlier this month, McCrory said he would ask the General Assembly to borrow $1 billion to pay for about 20 projects across the state. A draft list, released by the Department of Transportation, includes widening N.C. 42 East from Glen Laurel to Buffalo roads.
The 4.5-mile project, which would also replace a bridge over the Neuse River, is estimated to cost about $20.3 million. It has long been on Johnston County’s road-building wish list but has never received funding. That could change if the widening makes the final list of projects McCrory hopes to finance through revenue bonds.
The governor announced his plans during a statewide tour promoting his “25-year vision” for N.C. roads and bridges. State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said the bonds would kick-start that vision.
Engineers have drawn a design for the N.C. 42 widening, but the project is still in its early stages, said Jennifer Garifo, a spokeswoman for the DOT. If the project moves forward, the DOT would still need to conduct land surveys, among other preliminary planning steps, she said.
N.C. 42 East is four lanes from U.S. 70 Business to Glen Laurel Road. The project would extend the four-lane highway through its intersection with Buffalo Road.
Several subdivisions are located along the proposed route, as are East Clayton Elementary School and two shopping centers.
Norwood Thompson is developing the Portofino neighborhood, which has miles of open fields, nature areas and on-site equestrian facilities. Thompson said he supports the widening, adding that many residents are aware of the project.
“If you try to come out here in the morning and afternoon, the traffic gets backed up a long way,” said Thompson, who lives in Portofino. “The bridge is about as antiquated as it gets.”
In Portofino, houses are not directly next to N.C. 42, as is the case with most neighborhoods along the stretch of highway.
If the project wins approval, the DOT will decide what land it needs to build the wider road and then negotiate with owners on price. If negotiations fail, state law allows the DOT to acquire property for public purposes through the courts.
The DOT expects right-of-way acquisition to cost about $3.1 million and construction to cost about $17.2 million.
The DOT says it compiled the draft list of bond projects to see how far $1 billion would go. Tata, the transportation secretary, said the list currently includes more projects than the state could fund.
If not paid for with bond dollars, the N.C. 42 widening could still find funding through the state’s Strategic Transportation Investments program, or STI. That’s the DOT’s new data-based formula for deciding road-building priorities.
In STI rankings released Wednesday, the widening ranked 77th out of 650 projects with regional impact.
Also included in the state’s draft list of bond projects is a new extension of Booker Dairy Road from Buffalo Road to Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield. Booker Dairy Road already connects to Bright Leaf Boulevard. The $9.4 million project would widen the existing roadway, with the new extension running behind two shopping centers before reaching Bright Leaf farther north than the current intersection.
The STI rankings place the Booker Dairy Road project 176th.