More than a decade ago, the state opened a new freeway between Wilson and Goldsboro and named it Interstate 795.
Now the state is making early moves toward extending I-795 south from Goldsboro to I-40 in Sampson County. The N.C. Department of Transportation is holding three public meetings in Faison, Goldsboro and Mount Olive to introduce the idea and hear what people think about it.
U.S. 117 is already a four-lane divided highway between Goldsboro and I-40. Upgrading the road to interstate standards would include widening shoulders and eliminating access from side roads, homes and businesses, in favor of a handful of interchanges. About 100 driveways, 35 intersections and two railroad crossings would be eliminated, many of them in a congested stretch of U.S. 117 on the west side of Goldsboro.
Local governments in Wayne and Duplin counties have endorsed the idea of completing I-795, which would create a new interstate connection between I-95 and I-40. Economic developers say interstate highways help in recruiting businesses, because some companies won’t even consider places without interstate access.
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But completing I-795 won’t happen quickly. NCDOT is still two years away from having the first conceptual designs showing what the 24-mile road would look like, said spokesman Andrew Barksdale. And the state has budgeted money to build only the first seven miles, between Genoa Road south of Goldsboro to Country Club Drive north of Mount Olive, starting in 2027.
The planning process begins in earnest with the three public meetings. Barksdale said they are a chance for people to tell NCDOT what they think about the freeway and what they’d like to see preserved along the corridor.
“There may be a small family cemetery that we don’t know about, so this input may help us develop the plan,” he said.
Converting U.S. 117 to an interstate will be most difficult in Goldsboro, where the road functions as a busy city street. A feasibility study completed in 2015 shows four possible routes through and around the current path of U.S. 117 at Goldsboro, and Barksdale said none of them has been ruled out yet.
There will be no formal presentation at the public meetings, but NCDOT representatives will be on hand with large maps showing the corridor the state is considering. Each meeting runs from 4 to 7 p.m. They are Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Faison Recreation and Wellness Center gym, 184 Park Circle; Monday, Dec. 3, in the Goldsboro Event Center Ballroom, 1501 S. Slocum St.; and Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Steele Memorial Library, 119 West Main St. in Mount Olive.
For more information, go to www.ncdot.gov/projects/us-117-goldsboro/.