If you drive between Durham and Raleigh, you should have a new, faster route late next year.
It’s a highway 60 years in the making.
The East End Connector will link two major roads in Durham: N.C. 147 and U.S. 70. It will bring a faster route between Interstates 40 and 85, too.
Commuters on N.C. 147, known as the Durham Freeway, and U.S. 70 in East Durham have watched the construction for three years. The 3.9-mile connector will have 16 new bridges, a flyover and three roundabouts.
The East End Connector is scheduled to openin November 2019 at at cost of $150 million, said N.C. Department of Transportation engineer Cameron Richards.
By 2035, the average daily traffic on the connector will be 116,100 vehicles. In 2015, daily traffic in the area was 65,700, according to NCDOT.
If it stays on schedule, the East End Connector will open 60 years after it was pitched. And it’ll have a new name: Interstate 885.
History of the project
In 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. The Research Triangle Park was founded. The Disney movie “Sleeping Beauty” came out.
And the city of Durham introduced the East End Connector to its thoroughfare plan.
So why has it taken so long? Other priorities and money. Sometimes money went to N.C. 147 instead.
The Freeway was funded by a 1962 bond referendum, with the first part finishing in 1970. More exits were added into the 1990s.
In the late 1990s, interest in the connector resurfaced, and NCDOT studied it again. But still, no money. It showed up again in project lists in 2003 and 2005. Then NCDOT put it in the 2009-15 Transportation Improvement Plan, and this time it stuck. Ground broke in 2015.
Roundabouts and a flyover
The three roundabouts will be part of a new interchange off of U.S. 70, said Richards, the NCDOT engineer. They will connect U.S. 70 with South Miami Boulevard and East End Avenue, which had previously connected with U.S. 70 before construction began.
The flyover bridge will be from southbound N.C. 147 onto the connector, with an exit ramp on the northbound side. The connector will meet N.C. 147 between the Briggs Avenue and Ellis Road exits.
Once the new highway opens in late 2019, another six months of work will be spent on growing grass on the slopes and medians around the roadway.
Richards said a big plus of the project is that there has not been a good connection from N.C. 147 to Interstate 85. The connector will meet U.S. 70 within about a mile of Interstate 85.
“They’re trying to connect the interstate system a little better,” he said.