Mike and Tracy Edwards breathed sighs of relief.
The house they built just two years ago off Baker Chapel Church Road in Mount Olive is safe — it is at least a mile outside the state’s study area for plans to turn U.S. 117 into a controlled-access freeway.
“We didn’t think that it would, but we wanted to see a bigger map,” Edwards said. “We wanted to see exactly where. We are going to be about a mile to the good maybe. That’s a little relief. We still have one more map to look at.”
That joy was tempered somewhat just moments later when they looked at the second map and realized that their family business, Edwards Truck Service, on U.S. 117 falls within the study corridor even though it could be a decade or longer before that section of highway is built.
Using a small flashlight, the Edwardses pored over the large-scale project maps on display Monday night at the Goldsboro Event Center during the second of three public meetings on the highway project.
There was no formal presentation — people could attend at any time to look at the maps and talk to state Department of Transportation representatives. The Edwardses were among the nearly 50 people who were at the meeting well before its 4 p.m. start. It lasted until 7 p.m.
The first meeting was held Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Faison Recreation and Wellness Center gym, in Faison, and the final one will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Steele Memorial Library, 119 W. Main St., Mount Olive.
Planning and design are underway for a $227 million project to upgrade the approximately 24-mile stretch of the U.S. 117 corridor between Goldsboro and Interstate 40 in Sampson County into an extension of Interstate 795. The corridor includes the U.S. 117 Connector between Calypso and Interstate 40 in Sampson County, N.C. 403, U.S. 13 and N.C. 581.
The project will require that some of the road be built on a new location, particularly in the northern 6.5 miles of existing U.S. 117 from U.S. 117 Alternate to north of N.C. 581 (Ash Street). The Edwardses’ business falls within that area.
Not unexpectedly, most of the people at the meeting focused in on that stretch of road.
That section of highway has no control of access and has numerous driveways, two at-grade railroad crossings (controlled by crossing gates) and 22 at-grade intersections. Nine intersections have traffic signals, and 13 are controlled by stop signs.
This portion of the project corridor has the most adjacent development, has numerous engineering and environmental constraints and will require the most extensive upgrades.
As a freeway, the road would have full access control with interchanges or grade separations at major road and railroad crossings. There would be no at-grade access.
The DOT is using the meetings to get feedback from residents and to let them know what the goals and vision are for the project, DOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale said.
“This meeting is a little unusual because we don’t have any design maps yet,” he said. “We are very early on in the development stage, and that is why it is so important for the public input.”
Those at the meeting were asked to place different colored stickers on the map to indicate concerns such existing traffic issues, safety concerns, and where they live or work in order to provide additional data, Barksdale said.
The project will improve north-south mobility in the region by completing the I-795 freeway connection between I-40 and I-95 and in doing so provide a high-speed facility with full control of access within the U.S. 117 corridor.
Roadway design options will be developed during the next steps and will be presented at future meetings, Barksdale said.
About 7 miles of the proposed route — roughly between Country Club Road and Genoa Road in Wayne County — are currently funded in the department’s State Transportation Improvement Program, which has property acquisition scheduled to begin in 2025 and construction to start in 2027.
The route to be improved includes new bridges and ramps on U.S. 117 to replace at-grade intersections at O’Berry Road, Dudley, and Country Club Road, Mount Olive.
Construction started in late July 2017 on the O’Berry Road project and this past January on Country Club Road.
O’Berry Road will travel over U.S. 117, and U.S. 117 will pass over Country Club Road.
The O’Berry Road project is expected to open by the end of the month and the Country Club Road project by next July.
A third related project will realign Smith Chapel Road with Lee’s Country Club Road just south of Mount Olive where an interchange will be built. It also includes constructing a new connector road along U.S. 117 in that area.
The estimated cost is $28.5 million with right-of-way acquisition to start in 2024 followed by construction in 2026 and 2027.
The U.S. 117 project is broken down into four parts:
• North of Country Club Road, Mount Olive, to south of South Landfill Road at Dudley; $17.3 million; right of way, 2025; construction, 2027.
• South of South Landfill Road to south of Genoa Road; $35 million; right of way, 2025; construction in 2027.
• South of Genoa Road to south of Arrington Bridge Road (N.C. 581); $62.4 million; unfunded for future years past 2027.
• South of Arrington Bridge Road (N.C. 581) to north of West Ash Street (N.C. 581); $111.3 million; unfunded for future years past 2027.
For additional information or to send comments, contact John Conforti, a DOT project manager for the eastern part of the state, at 1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1548; 919-707-6015; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments will be accepted through Dec. 18.
The DOT mailed thousands of fliers about the meetings to affected property owners and created a web page, https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/us-117-goldsboro/Pages/default.aspx, which will be updated as engineers continue to fine tune the plan with the public’s input.
Copies of the maps are available at https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/us-117-goldsboro/Pages/public-meeting-maps-november-2018.aspx.
The project’s strategic plan is located at https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/us-117-goldsboro/Documents/us-117-corridor-feasibility-study.pdf.