09/22/06 — Highway 70 access management plan approved by county

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Highway 70 access management plan approved by county

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 22, 2006 1:47 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners adopted an U.S. 70 access management plan Tuesday, paving the way for future improvements to sections of the existing U.S. 70 bypass and look ahead to creating a new U.S. 70 freeway from Clayton to the coast.

The U.S. 70 access management plan was issued by consultant Kimley-Horn and the state Department of Transportation last July. It contains suggested improvements along the existing highway corridor, limiting the amount of stop lights and traffic along the bypass.

Over the past several months, the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, consisting of officials from Wayne, Lenoir, Jones, Craven and Carteret counties, have studied how to build a 70 mph, restricted-access freeway along the 140-mile stretch from Clayton to Morehead City.

Constructing the highway would cost about $1.2 billion, according to state Department of Transportation estimates. Since the department can't provide the entire amount, Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best suggested Monday that the corridor ask for $15-$20 million per year to make spot safety improvements along the existing corridor which is suggested in the access management plan.

Improvements include building $300,000 directional crossovers at high-risk or heavy-traffic median crossings. Such crossovers control which way drivers turn at an intersection.

For example, if an eastbound driver on the four-lane reaches a major intersection, that driver could turn left off of the four-lane onto a side road. But a driver coming from the side road could not turn left onto the four-lane. A barrier would force the driver to turn right until he or she reaches a left-turn lane where they could make a U-turn.

Such a crossover already exists at the intersection of Piney Grove Church Road and U.S. 70 east. One has been proposed for the intersection of Beston Road and U.S. 70 east.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said Tuesday that even if the money was available to build a new U.S. 70 bypass, the corridor commission would still need to make improvements along the existing corridor.

"In the next 15 years, the traffic will more than double on the existing corridor even with a new road," he said.

Smith said he considers U.S. 70 to be the "lifeline of Wayne County," and the highway is vital for other communities along the corridor. So, through the work of the corridor commission, each community should have the same goals for the existing and future U.S. 70s.

Wayne County officials said they are hopeful Goldsboro officials will follow suit by approving the access management plan as written. As more governments along the corridor approve measures to protect the existing and future highways, Smith said each government should sign a memorandum of understanding to ensure that protection.

Smith said the memorandum is currently being discussed in Craven County and it should be available for the commissioners' consideration at the board's Oct. 2 meeting.