08/23/12 — Upgrade of U.S. 117 South sought

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Upgrade of U.S. 117 South sought

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 23, 2012 1:46 PM

Identifying what is necessary to earn U.S. 117 South upgraded status as a freeway, if not an interstate, will be the focus of a three-month study by transportation officials in Wayne, Duplin and Sampson counties.

Alex Rickard, planning director for the Eastern Carolina Regional Planning Organization, briefed members of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization on the study Monday.

"The Duplin County Transportation Committee and the Wayne County folks in the Eastern Carolina RPO have long been pushing us to see 117 improved to freeway status," Rickard said. "U.S. 117 is identified in the state's long-range plan with being a strategic highway corridor.

"The ultimate recommendation would be a freeway which would not necessarily be an interstate road, but (would have) no driveways, no at-grade intersections, only overpasses and interchanges."

The idea, he said, is to look at the existing U.S. 117 from U.S. 13 south of Goldsboro to Interstate 40 in Duplin County. The goal would be to identify what improvements would be necessary to upgrade the road to freeway status, or even an I-795 South, he said.

For example, there are certain Department of Transportation distance requirements between interchanges, he said.

"We want to start at I-40 and move north and look at how far these interchanges would be, what roads would be overpasses, what roads would be closed off completely, what additional improvements would be necessary, whether it is secondary roads or service roads to make sure everybody can get to those interchanges and across the highway if it were upgraded to a freeway," he said.

The time frame for the study is short, just over three months, he said.

Rickard joked that he'd like to start the committee "this afternoon."

The committee would have representation from the MPO, RPO, Wayne, Duplin and Sampson counties, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Faison, he said.

He noted that the DOT already has right of way necessary for interchanges at the U.S. 117 intersections at O'Berry Road at Dudley and Country Club Road just north of Mount Olive.

While it was not mentioned during the meeting, the DOT is in the process of surveying and drafting a preliminary plan to built an interchange at O'Berry Road. However, that plan also includes closing the existing median at Country Club Road.

There is an existing interchange at N.C. 55, Rickard said.

"DOT and my office are looking at a new interchange south of 55," he said. "So we would like to have some preliminary recommendations in October and come back to the counties and cities and MPO and RPO for endorsements of those projects somewhere in the early November time frame -- hopefully wrapping that up before Thanksgiving.

"We do have plans for two different public workshops -- one in Wayne County and one in Duplin County. We will be sending out postcards or fliers to every property owner along that corridor with some preliminary maps of where those interchanges will be; where those overpasses will be. Hopefully we will be able to get some preliminary cost estimates on those improvements."

The RPO and MPO would hopefully work together to prioritize those interchanges, he said.

Wayne County Planner Connie Price, who is also chairman of the MPO Technical Communicating Committee (staff), Jennifer Collins, senior planner for the city of Goldsboro, and Nora McCann, area coordinator for the DOT Planning Branch, will be involved with the study, Rickard said.

Data to be collected during the study will include crash information, traffic counts, existing land use, future land use (if available) and any proposed transportation projects.

The study project is expected to cost $7,500.