Frustrations in high gear about proposed I-440 changes

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Crowd voices concerns about I-440 widening project
Everyone agrees the project is needed, but the road to improvement is marked with dissension.

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Frustration among almost 400 people filled a room for a public hearing that lasted several hours, hosted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

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They hosted it Tuesday night at the McKimmon Center on Gorman Street in Raleigh to discuss the proposed improvements to I-440 in Wake County.

The area in question is the stretch between just south of Walnut Street in Cary and north of Wade Avenue in Raleigh.

More information on the project and all the maps

The NCDOT hopes that by widening the roadway from four lanes to six this will improve traffic flow and access and efficiency to the roadway. Changes also include replacing pavement and bridges and upgrading interchanges.

Closer look at the Hillsborough-Wade Avenue interchange map (.pdf)

Joey Hopkins, an engineer with the NCDOT said the stretch is almost 60 years old and supports 80,000 to 112,000 cars a day. In 30 years, he said that number could grow to 140,000 cars a day.

Hopkins also said the crash rate there is three times the state average for similar routes.

While the crowd did not discount the need for a Walnut-to-Wade I-440 project, it wanted the NCDOT to figure out another way.

The president of Meredith College said her campus has already lost land because of growth in past years. This time around, she said the school could lose 12 to 16 acres.

"We moved out here from downtown in 1925 because we needed more space and we got a 225-acre estate here, farm estate and over the course of time because of North Carolina DOT projects, we've lost a fifth of our campus once this project is added to that," said Jo Allen, president of Meredith College in Raleigh.

"Meredith College, our 2,000 students, 500 faculty and staff and 21,000 living alumni cannot well endure additional blows to our campus, and they are rightfully agitated," Allen added.

Dozens of members of the North Carolina State University Club showed up wearing NC State Wolfpack red in support of their club. They worry about losing part of their club to the expansion.

"The tennis courts are gone," said member John Gripman while looking over one of dozens of maps of the proposed project.

Sarah Green was looking at the impact to the Athens Drive Bridge map. She said she has lived in the area for 10 years, and worries her neighborhood won't get a sound barrier.

Closer look at the Athens Drive Bridge project (.pdf)

"I suppose if they have some data to back it up we can't argue with that, but we would like to make sure our community is represented," Green said.

Hopkins stressed that the plans on the table are preliminary. The NCDOT realizes there are a lot of stakeholders in this plan, so it hosted the public hearing.

"What we want to do is take information we hear from them and stakeholders and improve on that and make it better," Hopkins said.

The NCDOT also hosted an open house from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to give residents a chance to ask questions directly to Department of Transportation representatives.

The goal is to start construction on a final plan in 2018.