The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday December 2nd

Residents voice concerns over upcoming I-40 widening project

Residents of the Northwood neighborhood worry the NCDOT’s plan to redesign the interchange of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Interstate 40 will have dramatic and negative effects on their community.

Under the current NCDOT plan, Eubanks Road, which runs behind the neighborhood, will be moved 600 feet farther from the interchange. A few homes will be removed, and others will become landlocked in the process.  Several homes in Northwood will find themselves adjacent to the busier Eubanks Road, as it cuts through the neighborhood.  

NCDOT planned to host a public meeting Nov. 5, but this meeting was postponed due to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority water emergency.Gene Tarascio, the NCDOT project manager, said they have not scheduled a new meeting date, but it's likely to be in January. 

Gene Casale, one person whose home would be removed, is determined to attend the makeup meeting whenever it is rescheduled.

“We were shocked and saddened to learn that some of our Northwood neighbors would lose their homes,” Casale said. “We look forward to finding an alternative that is suitable to the diverse families of Northwood, the Town of Chapel Hill, the county and the state.”

Rev. Lee Carter of North Chapel Hill Baptist Church is concerned he will have to restructure the church’s cemetery and parking lots if Eubanks Road is moved.  He is also anxious about his congregation’s ability to worship.

“What’s it going to do with traffic on Sunday morning?” Carter said. “Are we going to have noise problems?”

Carter said he had only found out about the cancelled public meeting the day before it was set to take place. He and his congregation will discuss the implications the project will have on their church and be prepared to represent themselves at the next meeting.

Tarascio said the current plan is preliminary. He said he looks forward to hearing feedback from the community at the makeup public meeting, and he understands why residents are concerned.  

“This is the worse-case scenario in terms of impact,” Tarascio said, acknowledging that removing homes is not at all ideal.  

He said the NCDOT designs its projects to handle anticipated impacts on traffic.  

Although Northwood falls just outside of Chapel Hill’s jurisdiction, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the Town will support the neighborhood in working with the NCDOT to find a more palatable solution. 

However, Hemminger was concerned the department hadn’t yet seemed to consider alternative plans before the cancelled meeting. She proposed one tentative solution could be that Eubanks Road remain in place and the intersection be remodeled so traffic entering MLK Jr. Boulevard can only turn right.

“There may be other solutions,” Hemminger said. “We just asked if they had thought of any of these.”

Hemminger understands NCDOT ultimately has the last word, but she said the department did well with working with the Town in past projects. She is hopeful a compromise can be found again. 

Carter said his congregation also has faith NCDOT will make sure its church suffers as few of the negative impacts as possible.

“The last time we worked with them, they were very helpful,” Carter said. “We will work with them again, we will work this out.”

The project also involves widening the 11-mile strip of I-40 from Exit 270 to Exit 259, which would eliminate the last four-lane stretch of the highway within the Triangle.  

Though the widening of I-40 is a much more popular part of the project, Tarascio said some residents whose homes are near the stretch have expressed concerns about an encroaching interstate.

Tarascio said these fears will be much simpler to alleviate because the only expansion will be the highway’s shoulder.

“Lanes will be widened into the median,” Tarascio said. “There are 10-foot shoulders out there. The standard is 12-foot shoulders.”

The project is not scheduled to begin construction until 2023. In addition to the moving of Eubanks Road, the proposed MLK Jr. Blvd and I-40 interchange design will have ramps rebuilt and restructured. Whitfield Road will also be moved farther from the interchange.

The project is still undergoing analyses to assess its impact.

For more information about the project and to view maps, visit the NCDOT website

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