A focus on preserving Capital (Boulevard’s schedule)

At our 2019 annual meeting, we noted that the new draft state transportation plan was brutal from a scheduling standpoint, given the significant delays to a host of upcoming priorities.

At last month’s quarterly RTA Leadership Team meeting, the group established projects that upgrade signalized roadways to freeways as our organization’s focus for schedule preservation. The Leadership Team designated the conversion to freeway of US 1 north of 540 as our highest priority for schedule preservation/restoration.

Like many other “hard” or more complex projects, converting US 1 to a freeway will involve the elimination of signals, the creation of new exit ramps and bridges, and the controlling of access to ensure mobility and safety for travelers.  “Conversion” or upgrade to freeway projects will provide all-day benefits — since stoplights make you stop whether it is rush hour or not, so removing them helps during both peak and off-peak periods.

The RTA Leadership Team also designated the conversion to freeway of US 70 in Durham between future I-885 and west of I-540 as the second-highest schedule preservation priority of the regional business community. While we did not formally pick a “third” priority, if I were asked what it would likely be, I would respond with the only remaining conversion to freeway priority in our regional network — the upgrade of US 64 in Apex.

Returning to our highest schedule restoration priority, the upgrade of US 1 north to a freeway: we selected this priority for a number of reasons, including very high traffic volumes, significant rush hour congestion and delays throughout the day — and substantial all-day upside to removing traffic signals. US 70 in Durham County has substantially lower volumes than US 1 north but is probably more significant regionally as the primary reliever to I-40 between Durham and Raleigh, so both are vital to accelerate. However, US 1 was slated to be constructed prior to US 70 in the original TIP, so we have prioritized US 1 first, and then US 70.

US 64 has significant access control already between Cary and 540, so we are in less danger of losing that opportunity, although we will still seek to advance that priority.

We will work with NCDOT, CAMPO, and other partners to see if the schedule for converting the US 1 corridor to freeway can be restored to its original 2021 start date. 

The regional business community may suggest ways to prioritize projects for potential schedule acceleration. This may involve reducing the scope of those projects – or of other projects. There is no “free lunch”, but there needs to be an accelerated completion of our freeway system.

As we noted in January, while every delayed project is important, the completion of the US 1, 70, and 64 conversion to freeway projects are more essential to our resilient freeway system — plus they are also the more challenging ones to complete — so those are our highest priority for schedule preservation.

Of course, the acceleration of 540 to I-40 remains our top overall priority as an organization — and it will remain so until it is under construction.

Joe Milazzo II, PE 
RTA Executive Director

post reference: th3.2019.12

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