The state Department of Transportation plans to widen the last four-lane section of the Raleigh Beltline in the coming years, and says it wants the public’s help in determining how to do it.
The NCDOT has some preliminary plans for widening Interstate 440 between Wade Avenue in Raleigh and Walnut Street in Cary to six lanes, but those are subject to change, says Joey Hopkins, the district engineer in charge of the project. The department will present some options at a public hearing Aug. 8, but wants to hear what the public has to say, Hopkins said Tuesday.
“Our main goal is to partner with the public and hear those ideas,” he said.
A big challenge will be minimizing the impact on the property owners and institutions that line the 3.5-mile stretch of the Beltline. They include Meredith College, N.C. State University, the N.C. Museum of Art, the University Club and the owners and residents of dozens of homes and apartments. Method Community Park and Lake Johnson Park could also be affected.
“Anything we do will impact people,” Hopkins said.
This piece of the Beltline dates back to 1960. As many as 94,000 vehicles a day squeeze through this narrow section, often having to slow down suddenly; rear-end collisions are a common occurrence, Hopkins said.
In addition to eliminating a bottleneck, NCDOT wants to fix several outdated interchanges, particularly Western Boulevard, where southbound traffic merges onto the Beltline from the left. The Hillsborough Street and Wade Avenue interchanges also will be reconfigured to try to prevent entering and exiting traffic from having to criss-cross each other.
“There’s so many challenges, so many options,” said NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott. “It’s not an ideal corridor for widening, but we’ve got to do it.”
Abbott said the department will soon send out 15,000 postcards about the upcoming hearing to property owners, residents and other interested parties along the route.
NCDOT expects to spend at least $400 million on the project, and construction isn’t expected to begin until late fall 2018 at the earliest. The work could take four years to complete, Hopkins said.
During that time, two lanes of traffic would remain open in both directions, he said.
The NCDOT public hearing will take place Aug. 8 at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center at 1101 Gorman St. in Raleigh. It will begin with an open house from 4:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a formal presentation at 7 p.m.
Information about the project, including maps showing various configurations for the road and interchanges, can be found at www.ncdot.gov/projects/i-440improvements/.