05/25/08 — Bypass work could begin in fall

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Bypass work could begin in fall

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 25, 2008 2:02 AM

Lutabelle Lawrence, 87, remembers how, as a little girl growing up in the Rosewood community, she watched as what is now U.S. 70 was first paved as a single road.

"You'd better believe I have seen a lot of changes (in the road)," Ms. Lawrence said.

Now she is looking forward to the day when work gets under way on the new U.S. 70 bypass around Goldsboro.

"I just think it is a little late coming on," she said. "We needed it several years ago. It will be a mess going through (getting it built), but once they get it, everybody will enjoy being able to zoom around Goldsboro."

Mrs. Lawrence was among the some 100 people who attended Thursday evening's forum at the Wayne Center on the U.S. 70 project.

The forum was sponsored by the U.S. Corridor Commis-sion that is composed of officials from the six-county region that U.S. 70 passes through from Clayton to the coast.

Mrs. Lawrence and her husband, Joseph, recently moved after selling some of their road-front property near N.C. 581 northwest of Goldsboro for the project.

N.C. 581 northwest of Golds-boro is where the proposed bypass will begin its northern route around Goldsboro before tying back into the existing U.S. 70 at LaGrange.

The bypass is scheduled to be built in four phases. The contract for the first phase, from Interstate 795 to Wayne Memorial Drive, is expected to be awarded in August.

Signs and dirt should be moving by September or October said Jerry Page of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation. It could be at least 2015 or later before any other sections are funded, he said.

The local project could cost about $234 million.

Although the forum was supposed to be about the overall project, most of those who spoke renewed their call for a stoplight at Beston Road near Walnut Creek. They said that the changes recently made to the intersection failed to alleviate a safety problem and had only made it more difficult to navigate the intersection.

The work at Beston Road ties in with the state's plans to retrofit the existing U.S. 70.

Safety and access management will be the focus of that retrofit, said Mike Rutkowski of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., which is working with the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission.

He said the goal is to not install any additional stoplights along a highway that already has 63 between Interstate 40 and the coast.

Rutkowski said the turnout for the forum showed that a lot of people are interested in U.S. 70 and how it and any changes will impact their lives and the economy of the county.

"This is your main street," he said. "It is used more for community traffic -- to and from your homes, businesses and commerce. We are trying to make changes. U.S. 70 is a dangerous road."

The fatality crash rate along the 135-mile stretch of U.S. 70 from Clayton to the coast is 51 percent higher than a similar length of U.S. 64 and 119 percent higher than a similar length of Interstate 40, Rutkowski said. Those figures are based on statistics compiled over the past three years.

Of 663 Wayne County accidents during that same period, 33 percent were rear-end collisions. Also, Wayne County's fatality rate is the second-highest along the road.

Rutkowski noted that U.S. 70 is considered one of the state's strategic corridors -- roads that account for only 7 percent of the state highway system, but which carry 45 percent of all highway traffic in the state.

It is a "commercial main street,' he said.

He said that the military, the N.C. Port Authority, trucking companies and economic development officials have an interest in the highway.

"One of the first things industries look at is mobility," he said. "You need to compare U.S. 70 to the U.S. 64 and Interstate 40 corridors -- it is all about travel, all about timing."

"We all recognize that a lot of people live, work or own property along one of the corridors," Wayne County Commissioner Atlas Price Jr. said. "We all realize that there is a real problem with safety and mobility, and we know that we need to protect the corridor in terms of safety and economics. Today, it is about finding a working solution."

Commission Chairman Tom Steepy of Beaufort said he was pleased with the turnout and comments.

"This is what we are trying to do," he said.

Pointing to a map-laden table, he said, "When you see that many people standing and looking at maps you know there is a lot of interest. I am hoping we can build a better mousetrap.

"I think it is going well, and I hope we can sit down and address local concerns."