02/13/12 — DOT eyes Dudley interchange

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DOT eyes Dudley interchange

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 13, 2012 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- The intersection at U.S. 117 South and O'Berry Road could be replaced within five years with an interchange that would rid the four-lane highway of the only stoplight between the Wayne County Fairgrounds and Interstate 40.

The state has pulled back on its plans for a main line directional left-over with U-turns at the intersection until it can complete a study of a possible interchange.

The interchange would affect more than the O'Berry intersection -- the Country Club Road crossover on U.S. 117 just north of Mount Olive would be closed as well as part of the safety improvements.

"It would be a right in, right out (on Country Club Road)," said Chris Pendergraph, state Department of Transportation district engineer. "The median would be continuous right across the intersection."

Traffic headed north on U.S. 117 would not be able to turn onto Country Club Road, but rather have to continue to the Dudley interchange to turn back south. Traffic headed south on U.S. 117 would have to take N.C. 55 to head back north.

The cross-over project at O'Berry Road and Country Club Road had been planned for 2011, but was pushed to this year because of public comment.

"The public spoke up and said, 'We really, really want an interchange there,'" Pendergraph said. "At the time, the interchange was not really feasible, but we got to looking at it. I guess because of the public outcry wanting an interchange there, we got to checking into it.

"We said let's try it. It has come up and on the statewide (transportation plan) tier ranked kind of high for this area. That public comment shoved the project to the forefront."

Pendergraph said he believes the state already owns enough right of way to proceed with building the interchange. That could speed the project up considerably, he said.

"That is helping the project because there is no right-of-way cost to be able to build that interchange there," he said. "We already have that.

"Because of Country Club Road being between O'Berry and the (N.C.) 55 interchange, that is one reason the (Dudley) interchange went up so high in the ranking -- because of the closure and the safety impact that is brings to that project."

Pendergraph said he is unsure what the cost would be for the interchange. The Mount Olive cross-over project would cost $650,000 and the one at Dudley $675,000.

An environmental impact study is under way for the interchange, but it could be as long as five years before an interchange could be built, he said.

"With the fact that we are trying to put this directional cross-over on hold and knowing that we can't leave that money sitting there for too awful long because it would kind of be gobbled up by other projects," he said. "We don't want to do away with this other (cross-over) project because we already have that funded in case the interchange falls through, we because of safety reasons would have to fall back to that even though it is not ideal."

Pendergraph said he thinks the interchange will be expedited for funding so that the directional cross-over project can be let go.

So far, the only public hearings have been on the old project, he said.

"Once we get a little farther in that design, we will come forth with public hearing maps about the interchange and closure so there will be more public hearings on that," he said.

As originally envisioned, the O'Berry Road and Country Club Road intersections would be replaced by left-overs with U-turns on U.S. 117 about 1,000 feet north and south of both intersections.

If that is done, traffic on O'Berry Road and Country Club Road would no longer be able to directly cross U.S. 117.

For example, traffic traveling east on Country Club Road would have to turn right on U.S. 117 South, then make a U-turn back onto U.S. 117 North and back to Country Club Road to turn right toward Dudley.

Left-turn lanes, separated from the intersection by traffic islands, would funnel left-turning traffic on U.S. 117 at both intersections.

Bulb-outs would be added across U.S. 117 from the U-turn lanes. Bulb-outs are semi-circular indentions and would provide enough space so that even larger vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, would be able to make the U-turns safely.

Traffic islands and signs would direct the traffic flow.

The state began looking at the two intersections after a 2009 fatality at the Country Club Road intersection when a vehicle on Country Club Road pulled into the path of a vehicle on U.S. 117 South.