North Carolina transportation officials put forward an initial plan for widening I-40 in Orange County from two lanes to three late last year, but that proposal drew wide criticism from local residents and elected officials.
The initial plan called for the extension of the interstate and affiliated roads to run through a portion of the Northwood neighborhood. Corey Liles with the Chapel Hill planning department said that proposal would cause “a disruption” to the neighborhood.
“You see a couple of different homes in the Northwood neighborhood that are in the line of this path,” Liles said during a presentation to the Town Council. “Members of the neighborhood have also pointed out that their community well is located very close…so that’s their water supply.”
A neighborhood petition has been garnering signatures requesting an alternate proposal be put forward.
State officials did present a new plan to elected officials in the county at a meeting in mid-January, but North Carolina House Representative Graig Meyer wrote in a letter to state transportation secretary Jim Trogdon that he was “dismayed” that the original plan remained on the table. He went on to endorse the alternate proposed.
“If [the alternative] does not meet all of the DOT needs for the project,” Meyer wrote, “then please continue to refine it or introduce additional alternatives.”
He went on to request that “under no circumstances should DOT revert to Plan 4A or any plan that requires the destruction of homes.”
Liles detailed some of the changes in the alternative, which include a “super street” section of Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard near Eubanks Road that would prevent the possibility of turning left and heading north.
“DOT has proposed directing all traffic coming out of Eubanks to turn right,” he told the council. “And if you’re trying to head north, there is a turn-around right here just north of Perkins Drive. So, you turn right, come down here, U-turn and then come up to either get on 40 or continue north on NC 86.”
The Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution last Wednesday supporting the alternative plan and asking that other pieces of the construction only be incorporated once traffic count hits a level that would require the change. The council also asked that support for alternate modes of transportation be included in the planning. The area where the construction is being proposed is at the north end of the planned North-South Bus Rapid Transit Corridor for Chapel Hill Transit.
Orange County Commissioners also unanimously passed a resolution at a meeting Tuesday night opposing the initial plan that would run through the Northwood neighborhood.
The public comment period for the initial phase of the design work closes on Friday. You can submit public comment to the DOT here.