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PRINCETON — Residents had the opportunity to see the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s revised plans for U.S. 70 during a May 21 meeting. The highway will become the new Interstate 42, from Raleigh to Morehead City, and is routed through the middle of town.
The NCDOT project proposes to upgrade U.S. 70 to interstate standards from the U.S. 70 Goldsboro bypass in Wayne County to west of Pondfield Road in Johnston County.
The project will construct 6.7 miles of freeway, three interchanges and a bridged crossing over Rains Mill Road/North Pine Street in Princeton.
Driveways, intersecting streets and median crossovers will be removed and service roads will be added to provide access for property owners and ensure mobility for local traffic.
The public hearing, like the one held Dec. 7, 2017, was held at Princeton’s Grace Baptist Church and drew 200 residents.
NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale said the public hearing went well.
“The mayor of Princeton (Don Rains) told NCDOT that he was thankful that we made modifications to the design that would be helpful to the community and reduce the impact on homes and businesses,” said Barksdale.
Barksdale said the NCDOT offered a refined proposal from the December 2017 open house.
“But, it’s still preliminary, and we needed this final round of public comments to nail down the design,” said Barksdale. “We showed our preferred alternatives, based on input from the 2017 public comment period.”
The project’s cost has increased to $254 million, said Barksdale as the NCDOT has begun nailing down the design.
“Because we are going to eliminate all direct access to U.S. 70 through here, we are proposing three new interchanges, plus two bridges (without on- or off-ramps) to provide better access in Princeton,” said Barksdale. “ We also will build several service or frontage roads to continue to provide access to several businesses.”
Barksdale said the segment from the Goldsboro U.S. 70 bypass to Luby Smith Road near downtown Princeton is set for construction in 2025, with the remainder of the work planned in 2028.
“Yes, this plan would change how people in Princeton get around, but the overall goals are to improve regional mobility and safety,” said Barksdale. “People will have a safer, faster route, and Princeton would get a new interstate, which will open new areas of town to economic development.”
Town Clerk April Williamson said she felt the changes benefit Princeton.
“I think it benefits the town by giving us two access ramps and an additional crossover into town,” said Williamson. “It will keep the surrounding residents with access to downtown.”
Williamson said the proposed NCDOT changes will give travelers easy access to Princeton.
“It will (affect) a few businesses, but the town is proactive is finding new profitable locations for relocation. We have several years before it will (affect) Princeton due to the fact they will begin at the Goldsboro end with construction,” said Williamson. “Our town officials have worked diligently with the DOT to have impact be as positive as possible.”
Town Commissioner Mike Rose was cautiously optimistic.
“I will say that DOT has been responsive to the input of the community and businesses affected along the route. There will definitely be an impact to Princeton — whether that will be good or bad is yet to be determined,” said Rose. “ I remain hopeful that it will bring some positive commercial development along the interstate as well as make Princeton a desirable place for residential development.”