FAYETTEVILLE – Robeson County’s economic developer says the state Department of Transportation’s plan to widen Interstate 95 from Lumberton to Fayetteville to eight lanes is good news, but he wishes the state would depress the accelerator.
“This is great news,” Greg Cummings said “I just wish it was taking place now.”
State transportation officials this week announced 14 new highway projects in Division 6, which includes Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett and Robeson counties, are in the updated version of the state’s draft 10-year transportation plan.
In addition to the widening of I-95 from Lumberton to Fayetteville, plans are to also widen to eight lanes a section of the interstate between Dunn in Harnett County to the Interstate 40 interchange in Johnston County.
According to the DOT plan, both of the I-95 projects will begin around 2026. It is estimated that the widening from Lumberton to Fayetteville will cost about $375 million, with the Dunn to Interstate 40 project costing about $138.5 million.
“Widening Interstate 95 has long been a need in North Carolina for congestion, safety and economic development,” Terry Hutchens, the Division 6 member on the state Board of Transportation, said in a statement. “It is great to see portions of I-95 widening funded.”
The current plan does not include making any part of I-95 a toll road.
Cummings said that an eight-lane interstate through Robeson County will “play a major role in marketing during the future.”
The improved interstate will be especially vital in the recruitment of distribution centers, businesses that rely heavily on access to interstates and ports, according to Cummings.
“We are an interstate corridor, but also an interstate web,” Cummings said. “There is no other county that has as many interstates in its region.”
The plan also moved the the improvement of the I-95 interchange at Carthage Road forward, from 2022 to 2020.
Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne said Friday that improvements to the Carthage Road interchange are long overdue. It is considered a main entry point to downtown Lumberton, and a roundabout was recently opened at the end of Carthage Road to make traffic less confusing when reaching the area.
“We’re excited to know this project will get done because of the age of the bridge and this interchange,” said Horne. “… The proposed plans will be more safe and friendly for travelers.”
Horne said that the bridge at the Carthage Road interchange is the last one in Lumberton’s city limits that has not been updated and brought in conformance with the latest standards.
“This needs to be updated,” he said.
Chuck Miller, a DOT district engineer, said the interchange at Carthage Road will be upgraded and improved to the extent necessary to handle traffic flow when the interstate in the Lumberton area is widened to eight lanes.
“The widening is going to have a huge impact on traffic mobility on I-95,” Miller said. “It’s also going to have a huge impact on safety.”
Another new project included in the DOT’s 10-year plan is the widening to six lanes the All American Freeway in Fayetteville from Owen Drive to north of Santa Fe Drive. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2027.
An accelerated project includes the upgrading of U.S. 74 interchange at Boardman Road in Columbus County. The project will begin in 2021 instead of 2025.
The long-range plan, called the Draft 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Program, includes a total of 144 new projects statewide and hundreds of projects with accelerated construction schedules. The adjustments reflect updated financial information, including projected revenues and lower inflation and construction cost overruns.
The plan was initially scheduled to be approved by the Board of Transportation at its June meeting, but approval was delayed to allow the department to update the document to reflect the changes.
The DOT will now hold a public comment period on the updated plan until July 12. Anyone who would like to provide comments should contact Diane Wilson at [email protected] or 919-707-6073.
The final 2018-2027 STIP is expected to be approved by the N.C. Board of Transportation in August.
More information about the STIP and how transportation projects are funded is available online at ncdot.gov/strategictransportationinvestments/.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.