Which plan will make Aviation Parkway a better commute? NCDOT still trying to decide.

The widening of Aviation Parkway from Interstate 40 to N.C. 54 likely will happen in 2023.
The widening of Aviation Parkway from Interstate 40 to N.C. 54 likely will happen in 2023.

Relief for commuters driving through the center of Morrisville is at least four years away.

The town’s Planning and Zoning Board received an update Thursday on the planned widening of Aviation Parkway from Interstate 40 to N.C. 54 near downtown.

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to have a public workshop later this year to present a final design and get more input, according to presentation documents.

“We are in a holding pattern as a town until DOT makes its decision,” said Ben Howell, Morrisville’s Long Range Planning manager. “Right now there are no decision points for the town.”

About two years ago, engineers presented five possible ways of improving the intersection of Aviation Parkway and N.C. 54. Three included bridges over N.C. 54 and the adjacent railroad tracks, but they have since been ruled out.

The remaining two plans create new connections between Aviation Parkway and N.C. 54 away from downtown and keep the railroad crossing there in place.

The plans both create branches off Aviation Parkway near Cotten Drive.

One alternative directs traffic on a southeast loop from Aviation Parkway.

map alternative 4 SE quadrant loop.jpg
Laura Schramm

The other plan uses Cotten Drive to create a northeast loop connection.

map alternative 6 NE Quadrant loop.jpg
Laura Schramm

Widening Aviation Parkway from two lanes to four has been a town priority for several years. Drivers face long backups during rush hour on the road which connects I-40 and N.C. 54, which also is known as Chapel Hill Road.

NCDOT is seeking environmental permits as the road crosses Lake Crabtree and the proposed improvements may affect other wetlands.

The projected cost for the project is about $28.8 million with construction planned for 2023.

It will be the third major project in the area. NCDOT is planning to widen N.C. 54 from Perimeter Park Drive to Shiloh Glen Drive beginning in 2021. Improvements are planned for the McCrimmon Parkway intersection with N.C. 54 in Apex, too.

Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.