For $142 million, a connector road will be built from NC 147 (aka the Durham Freeway) to US 70 just west of Durham. Included in the price is establishing US 70 from that point west (though it feels north) to connect to Interstate 85. Turn right and you head north toward Oxford; turn left and you’re going to Greensboro. It’ll be a freeway from Research Triangle Park to I-85.
The benefit will be to better route traffic through RTP from Interstate 40 to I-85 and the other way around. After traveling through that area to and from Washington DC over the holidays, the improvement will be beneficial. Google maps routed us via US 64 from Cary through Apex to Toll Road 540, then to Toll Road 147 to NC 147 to NC 55 through Durham and onto I-85 north. We took an alternate route via the Cary Parkway to Evans Road to Aviation Blvd to Interstate 540 to US 70 (near the RDU airport) to I-85. The return plan was just as complicated but the time we traveled had low traffic volume.
However, with improvements for travel through RTP will come other issues, primarily the dumping of more traffic onto I-40 from RTP to Raleigh and from Raleigh to NC 147, then to I-85. This brings up mass transit and the ongoing discussion of light rail between Raleigh and Durham with stops in various places including RTP but not at RDU airport. Studies have shown there is little chance of ever completely paying for such rail with rider fees, but that’s okay. And, with better roads, while the train may be full, so will I-40.
Wake County recently hired a manager who has a great reputation for design and implementation of transportation systems including light rail. This is good for Wake County and Raleigh, but instead of laying track from city to city and primarily serving the RTP business community, the effort should be to ferry Wake County citizens from out-lying areas of the county to downtown Raleigh and back. It’s the wheel and spoke method. Going from Raleigh to Durham will happen but Wake County transit should be first priority.
With North Carolina government and NC State University the largest employers in downtown Raleigh and with many of those employees living outside the city in Knightdale, Garner, Cary, Apex, Wake Forest and other areas, such a system would do more to reduce road travel as well as boost the economy of Wake County.
Dictionary.com word of the day
interosculate (verb) [in-ter-os-kyuh-leyt]: to form a connecting link