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State plans new road projects in area

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A new interchange will be constructed on I-95 at Sunset Avenue.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Wider roads and roundabout intersections will make travel between Rocky Mount and Nashville easier and safer, according to state transportation officials.

The combined projects, totaling $128 million, include widening stretches of Eastern Avenue, Sunset Avenue and North Old Carriage Road and converting the Sunset Avenue bridge over Interstate 95 into a new interchange.

The road work has been moved up eight to 10 years, said Gus Tulloss, state Board of Transportation representative for Division 4, which includes Nash County.

"This is a game changer," Tulloss said. "More businesses will boost the local economy."

The Sunset Avenue exit will provide greater access to the city, said Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs.

The improved roads also will attract business, Combs said.

"There's a big tract of land across from Nash Community College opened up to opportunities," Combs said. "There's multiple owners who will be able to develop their land."

The NCDOT used objective data to determine the projects were needed now, said Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for state Transportation Department Division 4, which includes Nash County.

The projects are not creating another highway, Barksdale said.

"Anyone who wants to go that fast can hop on U.S. 64," Barksdale said. "This road with roundabouts will allow people to go from Nashville to Rocky Mount safely and easier."

Barksdale, Tulloss and a variety of other transportation officials held an open house Thursday at Brown Auditorium on the campus of Nash Community College.

Barksdale said the meeting was meant to receive public feedback and nothing is set in stone.

Roundabout intersections reduce crashes because all vehicles are traveling the same circular direction at slower speeds.

Anyone resistant to medians and roundabouts might not realize they reduce crashes by as much as 50 percent, Barksdale said.

"We don't build five-lane roads anymore," Barksdale said, adding that turning lanes have been replaced by medians in most future plans.

A roundabout already exists on Eastern Avenue at Nash Community College.

The roundabouts will reduce crashes and congestion by keeping traffic flowing.

The projects have been combined into one job with an award bid for design and construction being let in 2020.

The proposed projects include:

■ Widening Eastern Avenue between Red Oak and North Old Carriage roads into a four-lane road with a raised median. As part of the project, roundabouts would be constructed at three intersections along Eastern Avenue. 

■ Widening North Old Carriage Road between Eastern Avenue and Green Hills Road. A portion of the route would become four lanes with a median and the rest would be widened to three lanes to create an open-center turn lane to reduce congestion and the risk of rear-end collisions.

■ Creating a new highway exit on I-95 at Sunset Avenue. The avenue now has a bridge over the interstate, but motorists cannot enter or exit the highway at this location. As part of the new interchange, Sunset Avenue would be widened to four lanes with a raised median between Halifax Road and North Old Carriage Road.

■ Replacing the North Old Carriage Loop Road interchange with U.S. 64. The new interchange will get a longer, taller bridge that also is wide enough to accommodate the additional lanes proposed for North Old Carriage Loop Road.

Anyone who wants to provide a comment but wasn't able to attend the open house can contact Rachel Evans, an NCDOT Division 4 project manager, at 252-640-6434, rcevans@ncdot.gov or at P.O. Box 3165, Wilson NC 27895.

Comments will be accepted through Jan. 14.

The preliminary design maps displayed at the meeting can be viewed on the NCDOT website.

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