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DOT to post I-87 concept maps online

091917I87Forum1

Laura Fisher, senior transportation engineer with AECOM, speaks at an I-87 forum at Museum of the Albemarle, Tuesday.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, September 25, 2017

The NC Department of Transportation will soon make its concept maps of Interstate 87 available online, allowing the public to weigh in on the $1.35 billion project that will reshape travel through Williamston, Hertford and other communities on the way to Virginia.

NC DOT personnel agreed to make the maps available for review and comment at the urging of local officials at an Interstate 87 meeting in Elizabeth City last week. Even though planning for Interstate 87 remains in early stages, local officials said the public is already calling for more information on the project that could impact several communities and many property owners.

According to an email from DOT Transportation Engineer Shane York, the maps should soon be available at https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/projectsstudies/default.html?Counties=*&Region=*.

During the meeting, DOT’s consulting firm, AECOM, explained how they might turn US Highway 17 into Interstate 87, documenting the sections of road that need widening and the intersections that need changing if the road is to become a high-speed, “restricted access” highway allowing unimpeded travel from Williamston to the Virginia state line. Interstate 87 would also include US Highway 64 from Raleigh to Williamston, a road already close to interstate standards, but AECOM focused solely on US 17 during the local meeting.

AECOM officials Christy Shumate and Laura Fisher said US 17 from Williamston to Virginia is about 80 miles long. For planning purposes, AECOM has broken that corridor down into 10 segments needing varying levels of work. In a followup email, York added about 24 miles of that road are already at “freeway” standards, meaning DOT only needs to widen US 17 from Windsor to Castelloe Road, from the Chowan River almost to Edenton, and along the roughly 11-mile Elizabeth City bypass.

Things get more complicated in Williamston, Windsor and in the Town of Hertford, where keeping US 17 on its current route would require overpasses and numerous service roads to be constructed. Fisher noted several alternative routes for parts of Interstate 87, including arcing it east of US 17 in Williamston before tying back into the bridge over the Roanoke River, diverting it west of US 17 south of Windsor so it cuts around Windsor before tying into the existing bypass, and diverting it west of US 17 north of Winfall to tie into an interchange on Chapanoke Road. That Chapanoke interchange would avoid impacts to numerous properties around the intersection of Chapanoke and existing US 17.

Fisher proposed no alternative to taking I-87 through Hertford; however, which would require a diamond interchange be built at the intersection of US 17 and South Church Street.

Additionally, Fisher presented an alternative to the final stretch of I-87 in Camden, which would create an interchange not only connecting to the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center, but create a connection to US Highway 168 in Currituck. Fisher said AECOM added that route at the request of officials in Currituck and Virginia.

Though DOT and AECOM officials agreed to provide their current concept maps, they noted those maps have been developed before the release of a “feasibility study” that will include a more formal public comment period; that study is expected by year’s end. As the name implies, the feasibility study is still a preliminary document itself; it sets the stage for submitting individual I-87 projects for possible state funding.

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