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Change coming soon to US 70

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WILSON’S MILLS — The state will begin transforming U.S. 70 this fall.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has finalized plans to replace the highway’s intersections at Wilson’s Mills and Swift Creek roads with interchanges. The project is part of broader DOT plans to transform U.S. 70 into Interstate 42 from I-40 to the coast.

The state plans to award the construction contract in September, with the work likely to take three to four years, said Matt Clarke, a DOT project-development engineer. “Utility relocation (and) construction is currently underway and will continue through the year,” he said in an email.

During construction of the interchanges, the state’s hope is to inconvience drivers as little as possible, Clarke said.

“The interchange at Wilson’s Mills road is being shifted south of the existing intersection,” he said, noting that the shift spares the businesses on the north side of the intersection. “This shift also aids in maintaining traffic during construction.”

The project will carry U.S. 70 over Wilson’s Mills Road, Clarke said. As the state builds that overpass, U.S. 70 traffic will shift to what will become the interchange’s access and exit ramps, with temporary signals at the ramp intersections, he explained.

“The only road closures of Wilson’s Mills Road will be short in duration and in off-peak times for setting the bridge girders and shifting traffic,” Clarke said. “The closures will take place at night when traffic is lighter.”

The other intersection is a different story, Clarke said. “The Swift Creek Road intersection will require closure of Swift Creek Road while the interchange and bridge and constructed,” he said.

During the closure, traffic on Swift Creek Road will use Strtickland Road to reach Wilson’s Mills Road on the west side of town, Clarke said. “A temporary signal will be installed at Strickland Road when this detour is active,” he said.

Also, parallel to U.S. 70, the state will build an access road to connect Strickland Road to Swift Creek Road, Clarke added. “This will act as another route when Swift Creek Road is closed at U.S. 70,” he said.

Overall, the project’s design differs little from what the DOT unveiled in July 2017, Clarke said. “There have been only minor changes to the final plans compared to the conceptual plans,” he said.

Among the changes is the service road that will connect Swift Creek and Strickland roads; in earlier designs, it was farther away from U.S. 70. Also, the service road connecting the eastern and western segments of Bear Farm Road now parallels the highway too, meaning the DOT will need to acquire less right-of-way, Clarke said.

“The designers and right-of-way agents have worked closely with property owners to reduce impacts when possible,” he said.

Clarke said the project would be good for drivers. “The interchanges will greatly improve the safety and the mobility of traffic, allowing vehicles on U.S. 70 ... to continue at the posted speed while vehicles enter and exit using interchange ramps,” he said.

Elsewhere on U.S. 70 in Johnston, the DOT has replaced intersections with interchanges in Pine Level, and intersections in Princeton are on the state’s to-do list also.

The DOT expects the Wilson’s Mills work to cost $77 million.