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What's next for the Hwy-70 upgrades in Craven, Carteret Counties?

NCDOT
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The I-42 project, which was initiated in 2016, seeks to improve safety, promote economic growth, and connect the state’s ports and military facilities.

On Feb. 1, NCDOT announced a $242 million contract with the UK-based firm Balfour Beatty to upgrade a portion of Highway 70 to interstate standards. The project—set to begin this year— includes a 6-mile stretch between Thurman Road in New Bern to Carolina Pines Blvd just north of Havelock. It’s part of an ongoing project to turn Highway 70 into Interstate 42, connecting Raleigh to Morehead City.

There are already several projects happening along the thoroughfare, including ones in Kinston, Goldsboro, and James City—an unincorporated area just south of New Bern. Becca Eversole is the Senior Transportation Planner at Eastern Carolina Council, a rural planning organization. She’s responsible for coordinating infrastructure projects within Craven, Carteret, Jones and Pamlico Counties.

Eversole provided updates on two major projects along Highway 70 in Craven County, a project to upgrade the highway to interstate standards in James City, and the other to construct a bypass around Havelock.

“With James city. Right now, they're about 1/3 of the way through with the total construction process. The completion date for that is the end of next year," she said. "Also, we have the Havelock Bypass. It's a little more than halfway through its construction. And the completion date for that is also next year. Tentatively scheduled for about May.”

Once these two areas are completed, the task will be to connect them. That’s the 6-mile Balfour Beatty project that was just announced. Completion is expected by 2028. Once finished, the Dover to Havelock portion will be finished.

A bypass around Princeton in Johnston County will connect Raleigh all the way to Havelock via an interstate. The last part of the project is in Carteret County, which poses some challenges, Eversole says.

“Now the big challenge is going to be. How do we get it into Carteret County?" she said. "It's going to be a very difficult process. We can't just simply upgrade Highway 70 in Carteret County because it runs through the middle of Newport and it runs in the middle of Morehead City's downtown. So, there's really no good way to bypass Morehead City.

Morehead City sits on a peninsula, meaning finishing the Raleigh-to-Beaufort project would mean splitting off Highway 70 at Cherry Point and going along State Highway 101. Here’s Becca Eversole again.

“The most likely route for for Interstate 42 would be to route it roughly the path of Highway 101 now," Eversole said. "Maybe not upgrading it, but parallel and then routing it to Beaufort and to the recently completed Highway-70 bypass and then having that go on to the port of Morehead City. Because that's the big thing is having that Interstate connect to the port of Morehead City.”

The completion of Interstate 42 is a long-term and expensive project. The most recent projection put the price tag around $600 million, but that was from before 2022. Increasing construction costs and inflation have likely increased that cost, not to mention the struggle to find contractors to carry out the work.

“It is like a lot of industries contractors have staffing issues," Eversole said. They have issues finding workers. And that does increase costs. Raw materials, of course, are also increasing in cost and just general inflation. You know, it's making everything more expensive and It's making roadway projects more expensive.”

The project, which was initiated in 2016, seeks to improve safety, promote economic growth, and connect the state’s ports and military facilities.

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée and two cats.