09/10/12 — N.C. DOT looks at U.S. 117's future

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N.C. DOT looks at U.S. 117's future

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 10, 2012 1:46 PM

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The intersection of U.S. 117 South and O'Berry Road is scheduled to be converted into an interchange by 2017. Although the project is not directly tied to an effort to eventually bring U.S. 117 up to freeway standards, the creation of the interchange would greatly improve its chances of being upgraded.

DUDLEY -- It is likely that within five years the intersection of U.S. 117 South and O'Berry Road will be converted into an interchange.

The state already owns the necessary right of way. The surveying has been completed, and funding for the design has been approved.

All that is missing is funding for construction.

The possible interchange fits into, but is not part of, a separate study being conducted by the Eastern Region Rural Planning Organization to identify what is needed to have U.S. 117 South's status upgraded to a freeway, if not an interstate.

The study is an indication of how local and state officials are looking at U.S. 117 from a corridor-wide perspective, instead of just focusing on smaller areas -- similar to how U.S. 70 is viewed, state officials said.

Another example of that view is a visual traffic turning count scheduled this week at the intersection of Old Smith Chapel Road and U.S. 117 just south of Mount Olive. The study's goal is to determine if changes at the West Main Street intersection with U.S. 117 west of Mount Olive affected the volume of traffic at the Old Smith Chapel Road intersection.

The impact of the Dudley interchange also will be felt just a few miles south at the U.S. 117-Country Club Road intersection north of Mount Olive where the median would be closed.

The median closure and its safety impact actually helped to boost the Dudley interchange on the state's priority rankings, DOT district engineer Chris Pendergraph said.

"It is very, very likely that within five years there will be an interchange at O'Berry Road," he said.

Public hearings will be held on the project once designs are completed.

Pendergraph said he knows closing the median is not "popular," but that the two projects are tied together.

The state began looking at the project following a 2009 fatality at the Country Club Road intersection. A vehicle on Country Club Road pulled into the path of a vehicle on U.S. 117 South.

There was no interchange in the initial plans for the O'Berry Road intersection. The goal has been to remove the traffic light at the intersection -- the only on U.S. 117 between U.S. 13 South at the Wayne County Fairgrounds and Interstate 40 in Duplin County.

The original idea was to construct main line directional left-over with U-turns at both intersections -- similar to what has been done at the intersection of U.S. 117 South and West Main Street.

However, once the state start looking at the intersection it was decided to see if an interchange would be possible, Pendergraph said.

That idea has not been abandoned, but set aside pending the outcome of the interchange project in order to safeguard money already earmarked for the cross-overs should the interchange not materialize.