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How might Raleigh Beltline construction affect you this year? Find out Thursday.

Public gets first look at NCDOT’s Raleigh Beltline widening plans

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

The N.C. Department of Transportation and its contractors will soon begin rebuilding a stretch of the Beltline in West Raleigh, and on Thursday they’ll be available to answer questions about how the four-year project might affect you.

NCDOT and The Lane Construction Corp. are hosting a “pre-construction” meeting at N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center to let people know what to expect as the last four-lane section of the Beltline is widened to six lanes. The work also entails reconfiguring the interchanges at Wade Avenue, Hillsborough Street, Western Boulevard and Jones Franklin Road.

Thursday’s meeting will offer people a chance to see updated designs and find out what’s expected to happen at various stages of the project, said Joey Hopkins, NCDOT’s division engineer. The work begins in early August with the clearing of trees from Wade Avenue to Interstate 40, followed by earth moving and utility work in September, Hopkins said.

“From north to south, you’ll see work going on throughout the whole area,” he said.

Hopkins said the first phase of construction will involve shifting existing traffic to the west, which will mean building new lanes and bridges. For example, contractors will build a parallel bridge over Hillsborough Street and the N.C. Railroad tracks that will handle Beltline traffic while the existing bridge is demolished and replaced.

Rebuilding the interchanges will require closing ramps at various times, Hopkins said, though the contractors will avoid shutting down adjacent exits or entrances at the same time. The bridges that carry Athens Drive and Melbourne Road will be replaced, but at different times so at least one will always be open.

The widening of I-440 will coincide with the building of an underpass to carry Blue Ridge Road under Hillsborough Street and the N.C. Railroad tracks, near the N.C. State Fairgrounds. Hopkins said construction work on that part of the project isn’t expected to begin until sometime next year.

This four-mile stretch of the Beltline, also known as Interstate 440, was built in the 1960s, when four lanes could handle the traffic. Highway design has evolved since then; the new interchanges will have longer exit and entrance ramps that won’t force drivers on the freeway to brake as others come on and off, the way they often do now.

The Lane Construction Corp. won a $347 million contract for design and construction. Add in NCDOT’s planning and engineering work and the property the state needs to purchase along the route, and the final cost is expected to exceed half a billion dollars.

Thursday’s meeting will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at the McKimmon Center, 1011 Gorman St. There will be no formal presentation, and people are free to come and go when they wish. Those who can’t attend can ask questions of project manager David Hering at dthering@ncdot.gov or 919-707-6617.

For more information, including maps of what the highway will look like in the future, go to www.ncdot.gov/news/public-meetings/Pages/U-2719-2019-08-01.aspx.

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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.
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