06/09/06 — Plans for U.S. 70 could cost $1 billion

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Plans for U.S. 70 could cost $1 billion

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 9, 2006 1:47 PM

MOREHEAD CITY -- Converting U.S. 70 from Johnston County to the coast to a freeway without any stoplights would cost more than $1 billion, a consultant told members of the Highway 70 Corridor Commission on Thursday.

Representatives of Kimley-Horn and Associates discussed the corridor's future at the meeting held at Carteret Community College in Morehead City.

The commission's goal is to improve the existing U.S. 70 to meet the state's requirements for freeways, which would limit access and allow a 70 mph speed limit.

At the commission's May meeting, representatives of the counties and municipalities along the route, including Wayne, agreed that the region needs U.S. 70 to become a freeway.

On Thursday, Kimley-Horn spokesman Mike Rutkowski said that to reach that goal, about 82 miles of the existing road would have to be rebuilt, with new bypasses in several places. He estimated the cost at $1.09 billion. The 82 miles does not include the sections of the highway already scheduled to be rebuilt, such as the 20-odd mile stretch that crosses Wayne. A new four-lane stretch for Wayne is already being planned.

Most of the existing U.S. 70 is classified as an expressway. Rutkowski gave several examples of how an improved highway could be reclassified as a freeway.

He said that at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Wilson's Mill Road in Johnston County, a partial clover leaf interchange could be built to eliminate the need for a stop light. Another example of an improvement to speed traffic would be to build a compressed diamond interchange at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Williams Road in Craven County at James City, Rutkowski said. That type of interchange converts the frontage roads to one-way access roads and ramps would be used to allow access to the highway. The "ramp-over design" would act as a bridge over the stop lights below, Rutkowski explained.

Rutkowski said that although some money has already been set aside for the project, only about a fourth of the $1 billion is available at present. At their next meeting, commission members said they would discuss possible ways to help the state come up with the rest of the money. Some options include toll roads and the sale of bonds, Rutkowski said.

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for July 20 in Clayton.

In other business, the commission also approved the appointment of a board of directors. Craven County Commissioner Renee Sisk was chosen to serve as the commission's chairman and Carteret County Manager Tom Steepy will serve as its vice chairman. Wayne County Manager Lee Smith was chosen to be the secretary-treasurer.

Rutkowski recommended that officials and the public visit the U.S. 70 Web site, www.super70corridor.com, to learn more about the highway's accident and signal statistics. The Web site also has project costs, a vision statement and other information to help residents better understand the corridor and the commission's goals.