The Need for New Roads was Yesterday

Last night I attended an “open house” on a planned widening of a section of Falls of Neuse Road between I540 and Durant road.  This section of road serves the many residents of northern District B as well as communities such as Wake Forest.

I travel through this section of road everyday as it is on my way to and from work.  And, yes, there is a traffic jam most mornings.

The traffic jams are invariably from drivers waiting to enter I-540. At Falls of Neuse there is a single ramp onto I-540 that serves both the northbound and southbound Falls of Neuse traffic.  A traffic light stops vehicles in one direction to allow vehicles from the other direction to turn onto the interstate. The single ramp combined with the stopping and starting of traffic are huge contributors to the morning backups.

A more fundamental problem is that I-540 is regularly jammed with traffic. Drivers on Falls of Neuse as well as Six Forks, Creedmoor, and Leesville roads have no where to go. Often it is a crawl to get onto I-540.

Very simply, we have come to depend on a single road, I-540, to move traffic in northern Wake County.  Yet, growth continues unabated.  Last night’s open house was to learn about and discuss a plan to widen Falls of Neuse in the vicinity of the I-540 interchange.  It sounds reasonable enough.  But there are many concerns that the project does not address the fundamental problem – unabated growth without a well-planned road network.

There was a very large number of people at the open house. Most people had the impression that the widening project is a “done deal” and that they were only being asked to pick between two possible options for widening the road – both highly impactful.

Let’s be upfront about it.  With this project, there will be losers in terms of lost homes, lost businesses, and lost aesthetics from lost landscaping and trees. This project is guaranteed to turn this section of Falls of Neuse into another Capital Blvd.  The result will be six lanes of asphalt, a concrete sidewalk, and where business can remain, asphalt parking lots with few, if any, trees or landscaping.

So, let me begin by dispelling a myth. The project is not a “done deal”. I am in the process of arranging to meet with Governor Cooper’s office to discuss the many concerns that I heard expressed Everything, as far as I am concerned, is on the table including postponing or cancelling the project.

Repeatedly, I heard that this project does nothing to address the fundamental problem – whcih is no more room on I540.

I agree. Widening Falls of Neuse (with its many negaitive impacts) to bunch up as many cars as possible on Falls of Neuse is not the answer. Where will they go? It will still take just as long to get onto the Interstate.

The real issue is that we cannot have a future where an ever growing population north of Raleigh drives south to I540 to get to places like RTP. To support the level of growth that is happening, we need another road. In my view, the obvious choice is route 98. Route 98 needs to be improved so it can also serve as a path to places like RTP, Brier Creek, etc.

The area is growing rapidly but the roads are not keeping up. We also need to improve other arteries such as Creedmoor and Six Forks and move forward as quickly as possible with the planned improvements to Route 1/Capital Blvd.

Our road infrastructure shouldn’t be one and only one road – Interstate 540.

The time for a workable network of roads has come – and it was yesterday.

To express your views on this project, please send email to NCDOT Project Delivery Team Lead Ben Upshaw, PE, at bjupshaw@ncdot.gov. Please do this by September 7th. And please copy me at david.cox@raleighnc.gov.