Over the past couple of months, residents in Orange County have been expressing their concerns about a project on the widening of Interstate 40.
While the N.C. Department of Transportation had already started planning in October 2018, it was forced back to the drawing board when it was discovered that the work on the interchange, called plan 4A, on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard would be forcing residents out of their homes.
In terms of what will be changed, NCDOT project manager Gene Tarascio said the NCDOT was attempting to address a solution to the lack of distance between the highway exit on I-40 and Eubanks Road.
While the distance between those two roads should be at a minimum of 1000 feet, it's currently at about 400 feet. He added that, in the future, this could cause traffic to back up into the interchange and disrupt traffic on I-40.
“You have the lane drop on the outside and traffic merging from the ramp from 15-501, and that's what's causing those traffic bottlenecks down there,” Tarascio said.
The Chapel Hill Town Council meeting which was intended to address the concerns of citizens was postponed on Nov. 5, 2018 due to the water main break, which set planning back even further. On Jan. 24, the NCDOT hosted a public meeting at the Passmore Center to address questions from residents who are either affected or concerned by the changes to I-40.
One of the modifications of the plan is set to take place on Eubanks Road. An alternative to the plan would cut through the Northwood neighborhood, which prompted residents of the area to create a petition that now has 500 signatures. According to the resolution from the Town of Chapel Hill, it was believed the planned road would endanger homes, property values and septic infrastructure.
The petition demanded a new plan be drafted that would eliminate concerns residents had. The Town's Transfer and Connectivity Advisory Board also approved the creation of a new plan and released a statement on Jan. 22 where they rejected alternative 4A.
The Town Council also unanimously passed a resolution opposing 4A at its Jan. 30 meeting.
Based on the feedback, Tarascio said there is a new option that takes the concerns of Northwood residents into account.
“It will live maybe 15 or more years, but something else will have to be done, or else you're getting traffic problems again on MLK,” he said, although he added that any problems on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard cannot be addressed because improvements are outside the scope of the project.
Multiple Chapel Hill citizens emailed the Town with their thoughts. One person wrote they preferred the new 4B plan, yet they were disappointed that there was a lack of pedestrian accommodations, including bike lanes or sidewalks.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said while the Northwood residents are more satisfied with the 4B plan as opposed to the 4A plan, there are still some remaining concerns about changes to lane structure.
”They had concerns about people cutting through their neighborhood to avoid the superstreet situation. And they're concerned about extra noise from the I-40," she said.
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