12/08/17 — DOT receives comments from public about U.S. 70 improvement project

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DOT receives comments from public about U.S. 70 improvement project

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on December 8, 2017 5:50 AM

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Diana Young-Paiva, right, with NCDOT, speaks with residents about the Wayne County portion of the proposed U.S. 70 improvement project. Jeanette Burgess, left, is concerned her small business may be affected by the project.

For Johnston County resident Jeanette Burgess, the North Carolina Department of Transportation's plan to improve US 70 to interstate quality could result in the loss of a potential new business.

Burgess, who recently purchased property along US 70 to open a small business, was among those at Grace Baptist Church in Princeton Tuesday to speak with DOT representatives and give her comments on the project.

Under the proposed plans, she said, her property would no longer be located conveniently alongside the highway, but on a service road away from easy access for drivers. Burgess said she wished she had known about the plans when she bought her property.

"They knew this was coming, and I think people who are buying property should be told what is coming in the future," she said. "I wasn't left with anything, but I wanted to leave something for my kids, and this is my life's savings. I would never have done this if I'd known."

The project in question -- estimated to cost around $130.5 million -- would construct approximately 6.7 miles of freeway between the US 70 bypass in Goldsboro and a spot west of Pondfield Road in Princeton. To do so, several intersections which currently have stoplights would need to be decommissioned and replaced with highway interchanges with ramps and bridges.

Andrew Barksdale, DOT public relations officer, said that the most substantial change would come to Princeton.

"There are two interchanges we would need to build in Princeton. There are also a number of side roads which currently connect directly to U.S. 70, and we couldn't have that. Those would need to either go over the interstate or under it," he said. "That would be a change for people who are used to taking this street or that street to go to work or to school, now you would have to go down and get on the interstate."

The goals of the project are ultimately to reduce travel time and improve safety by cutting down on the number of places drivers can turn on to the highway without a traffic light, Barksdale said.

Matt Clark, project developer, said that planning for the project began six months ago. It is tentatively slated for construction in 2023, he said, and will be sorely needed by that time.

"We've been doing studies on traffic, and what they are showing is that we're expecting 70 percent traffic growth over the next 25 years," he said.

The project in question is only part of the overall US 70 improvement plan, which would completely change the highway from Wake County to Morehead City into Interstate 42, Barksdale said.

Princeton Mayor Donald Rains said that finalizing the plans would help the town bring in business.

"We have been meeting with developers for the past few years, and they're looking to come in because we have water and sewer," he said. "But we can't work anything out until we know where the interstate is going to go."

Attendees were encouraged to submit comments to a box in the center of the room. Clark said that the comments will be read and taken into consideration as the DOT narrows down the exact path of the interstate. Other sections of the interstate, which fall outside the department's 10-year plan, will need to re-compete with other short term projects every two years, meaning that there is not a definitive end date for the entire project.