People who use N.C. 98 in Durham and northern Wake counties were asked last spring how they thought the road could be made safer and traffic run more smoothly.
Now traffic engineers have taken what they heard and combined it with data on traffic and crashes to come up with a series of ideas for improving N.C. 98 from Durham across Wake to the Franklin County line. They will present the ideas at two workshops this week, one in Wake Forest and the other in Durham, in hopes of getting more feedback to guide their final recommendations.
The study was commissioned by the Durham and Wake transportation planning groups – the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization – and the state Department of Transportation. The three organizations and local governments will refer to the study as they plan changes to the road.
N.C. 98 is a two-lane road for most of its 27-mile route between U.S. 70 in Durham and U.S. 401 in Franklin, and traffic engineers say it is approaching or has exceeded its capacity. At the same time, the western section in Durham has seen a relatively high number of crashes, many involving pedestrians or cyclists.
There have been 857 accidents along the corridor between 2012 and 2016, more than half of them at the Durham end of the road. Eight of those accidents resulted in deaths, including two pedestrians and a cyclist.
The study began with two public meetings in March.
“We wanted to understand what was important to people and what problems they saw out there,” said Will Letchworth, an engineer with WSP, the firm conducting the study.
The study will support the widening of N.C. 98 to four lanes, particularly between Sherron Road in Durham and the bypass on the west side of Wake Forest. But that’s a long-term project that is not among the ones the NCDOT expects to undertake in the next decade.
But there are a number of potential smaller improvements to address problems people identified along N.C. 98. These include new turn lanes at Camp Kanata Road, new and longer turn lanes at Six Forks/New Light roads and a new traffic light at Nicholas Farm Road/Oak Grove Parkway.
“Those are things that could be implemented quickly, within the next couple of years,” Letchworth said.
All of the ideas will be presented at the two meetings and on the study’s website, www.nc98corridor.com. The meetings will take place Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Wake Forest Town Hall, 301 Brooks St., and Thursday, Sept. 21, in the Durham County Library, 211 Lick Creek Lane. Both meetings will run from 5 to 7 p.m.
There will be two more public meetings next spring to review the study’s final recommendations.