10/20/05 — U.S. 117 Will be done by next fall

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U.S. 117 Will be done by next fall

By Turner Walston
Published in News on October 20, 2005 1:52 PM

By this time next year, drivers will be able to cruise from Goldsboro to Wilson on U.S. 117 without interference from traffic lights or intersections, state highway officials say.

The highway construction project is on schedule, said Bill Jones, public information officer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

"Most of what is not completed will be completed by September 2006," Jones said.

Acquisition work on the project began in 1998.

The new, four-lane U.S. 117 is a little more than 20 miles long, from just south of U.S. 70 in Goldsboro to the proposed U.S. 264 bypass in Wilson.

The segment of the new four-lane highway already open runs about nine miles, from Pikeville's Main Street to Black Creek, before drivers are diverted back toward the existing two-lane. The speed limit on that section is 70 mph. The last two segments of the four-lane are scheduled to be completed just north of Goldsboro and south of Wilson in June and September 2006, respectively.

"This time next year, the whole thing should be open," said Connie Price, director of the Wayne County Planning Department.

Some portions of the highway might open earlier, said Jerry Page, division project manager for the Department of Transportation in Wilson.

"There is a possibility additional existing segments on the Goldsboro end may be opened by the end of March," he said.

The new highway, will take the name U.S. 117. The existing 117, which runs through Pikeville and Fremont, will have a new designation.

"I don't know if it'll be business or alternate," Page said.

The new highway will be controlled-access, with no stoplights, driveways or intersections from Goldsboro to Wilson, Page added.

Early in the planning stages, engineers considered simply widening the existing highway, with bypasses for Fremont and Pikeville.

But the problems associated with development along the existing road led planners to consider a brand-new route. And federal funding became available to build the road to interstate standards, meaning limited access.

"That sort of forced it out to where it is now," Page said.

Wayne County Economic Development Commission President Joanna Thompson said the corridor will be valuable in attracting industry to the county.

"The biggest thing is it's going to give us a direct interstate connector to 95 and 40. That will be huge in the eyes of industries. It will give folks the ability to receive and send goods and products with more competitive advantage."

Ms. Thompson said the corridor could help Wayne County attract companies looking to relocate.

"Business is so competitive," she said. "Anything you can do to raise the bar for your community is going to help."

Lonnie Graves, Pikeville town administrator, said the new highway could be beneficial to his town.

"I think it's definitely going to open up some new opportunities and doors that weren't open up before," Graves said. "I think it's going to connect Wayne County together more."

Highway engineers are planning an interchange at 117 for the proposed U.S. 70 bypass that is part of the state's long-range highway improvement plans.

"That will be an additional way for local traffic to get on 117," Price said.

He said work on the new U.S. 70 bypass, which would run north of the existing bypass, would take several years to complete.

"They do a seven-year plan, and they don't even have the end of it in the current plan," said Price.

The cost of building the new U.S. 117 between Wilson and Goldsboro is about $140 million. Contractors on various tracts are Barnhill Contracting of Tarboro, BMCO Construction of Lumberton and PLT Construction and ST Wooten, both of Wilson.