Here is a brief weekly update from the RTA business coalition — the voice of the regional business community on transportation.

540 approved — entire region, the environment, and our transit future emerge victorious
Yesterday was a watershed moment for regional mobility. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and a number of environmental organizations, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), came together and signed an agreement which will allow 540 to proceed to construction in the next few months, while ensuring environmental protection for our region.

The winners of this agreement include residents, visitors, commuters, and businesses in Wake, Johnston, Chatham, Durham, Lee, Harnett, and Wayne counties (and more). We have noted for many years, and did so again in yesterday’s Thursday Thoughts at 3 victory blog, that this new freeway will provide an essential link between metropolitan and rural North Carolina for jobs and opportunity.

What makes this agreement so remarkable is that it is the definition of a win-win. Kym Hunter with SELC termed it a “game-changer for many of the most important environmental issues in our state.” From watershed protection to open space preservation to endangered species propagation, the agreement covers these areas and many more, including provisions for integrated transit use on 540 and future toll lanes. It is worth perusing the full settlement agreement if you have time.

The RTA business coalition has been focused on the southern Wake segment of 540 in concert with a number of partners for nearly 10 years. From our efforts beginning in 2011 with the Town of Garner to a joint letter with SELC in 2016 to ongoing outreach and engagement in concert with local elected officials, the business community has remained steadfast in its desire to build a resilient, multimodal freeway network, with the southern Wake portion of 540 as a vital backbone.

The acceleration of 540 to I-40 has been the top priority of the regional business community for several years. It will remain our top priority until it is under construction — fortunately, that date is now in sight.

US 1 north freeway — project status improves
While 540 is obviously the big news this month, there is another piece of good news concerning the development of a resilient multimodal freeway network. Our top schedule preservation priority has been the conversion of US 1 north of I-540 to a freeway. The project was originally slated to go under construction as soon as next year (NCDOT fiscal year 2021). It was delayed until 2024 in the draft state plan earlier this year, but the start date for the southernmost portion (just north of 540, including the Durant/Perry Creek intersection) has now been restored to a 2022 start date.

This is a very welcome win for the region, particularly given the current financial challenges for surface transportation in our state. Thank you to NCDOT for finding a way to get this vital conversion to freeway project back on track.

Your RTA membership enables sustained business leadership on our region’s most critical transportation needs and opportunities. Thank you for your ongoing support! 

Let’s get moving,

Joe

Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA Executive Director