RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- While the state taxpayers will help fund the $475 million I-440 Widening Project, Raleigh's City Council on Tuesday approved additional spending on what officials called "upgrades and enhancements."
Eric Lamb, the City of Raleigh's Transportation Planning Manager, said those upgrades include more sidewalks, median planters and more aesthetically-pleasing noise-barrier walls.
"This is a NCDOT project," Lamb told ABC11, referring to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. "But cities have the option to upgrade their plans and add to it. That's what we've decided to do."
The spending approved by the City of Raleigh totals $6,949,610.
The widening project will affect the Beltline corridor between just south of Walnut Street in Cary and north of Wade Avenue in Raleigh, including widening I-440 from four to six lanes, replacing pavement and bridges and upgrading interchanges.
According to the NCDOT, that stretch of highway is the oldest section of I-440, and engineers cite its poor sight lines, narrow shoulders and short acceleration/deceleration lanes as further reason to give it a makeover.
Drivers we spoke with agreed some changes are needed to improve traffic flow.
"It's stressful," said Dominique Lee, who commutes from his home in East Raleigh to the other end of town. "I cannot wait until they widen it. You'll get more time with your family, more time throughout the morning to make breakfast. It will help your day out."
Joey Hopkins, NCDOT Division 5 Engineer, estimated that construction will begin in the spring and last up to four years.
Besides the cost in dollars, expanding the Beltline's footprint involves other costs too - such as forcing the relocation of homeowners and businesses (the dilemma is also quite prevalent in the Complete 540 project). The latest impact study released in May addresses these costs in full detail, and proposes the DOT acquires or purchases the land occupied by 38 homes and 15 businesses - including a school. Some area parks and property owned by NC State and Meredith College will also be affected.
"We really hope the number goes down," Hopkins told ABC11, and he added that the final rights of way will be determined by the design and construction team that wins the bid for the project.
Business owners and homeowners impacted essentially have two options: work amicably with the NCDOT or settle in the courtroom through condemnation proceedings. According to the DOT, each property owner works with a Right of Way Agent which is the property owner's direct contact at the DOT. The process starts with an appraisal and a written offer to purchase.
If the property owner accepts the written offer, payment is completed within two to six weeks. Additionally, the property owner is not liable for any real estate commissions, title insurance, abstract costs or legal fees.
As the project moves from planning to construction, the NCDOT will give the (former) property owner a 90-day notice to vacate the property. In many cases, as well, there are relocation benefits for families moving within a 50-mile radius.