Complete 540 Project

Complete 540 Project: Sooner or Later?

Familiar with either I-540 or NC 540? For readers who sit in traffic on one of these roads every day, they may be too familiar. But the proposed “Complete 540” project hopes to ease travelers’ traffic pains. While the plan is in motion, some influences want it to happen faster.

What is the Complete 540 Project?

Also known as the Southeast Extension, the Complete 540 project completes the 540 Outer Loop around the greater Raleigh area. To do this, the existing Triangle Expressway will be lengthened, starting at the N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex to the U.S. 64/U.S. 264 Bypass in Knightdale.

This extension would connect the towns of southeastern Wake County, including Apex, Cary, Clayton, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Raleigh. The project will also reduce traffic on congested roadways, like I-440, I-40, N.C. 55 and others—which for some, could not happen soon enough.

Back in April 2016, the route Detailed Study Alternative 2 was selected for multiple reasons:

  • 1. Formally supported by all local governments
  • 2. Minimizes home and business relocations
  • 3. Avoids Swift Creek watershed critical area impacts
  • 4. Avoids the Clemmons Educational State Forest
  • 5. Minimally affects only one local park

NCDOT estimates the Complete 540 project to cost about $2.2 billion and says it will be funded in phases. Although Detailed Study Alternative 2 was the most favorable route, the loop still requires 281 relocations.

When Will Complete 540 Happen?

On the NCDOT website, the current schedule shows the N.C. 55 Bypass to I-40 construction contract being awarded in 2020. But if the Regional Transportation Alliance has anything to say about it, this timeline would move forward by two years. Naming its initiative Accelerate 540, this regional business voice places Complete 540 at the very top of its priority list.

Who is the Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA)?

According to its website, The RTA business coalition counts as members more than 125 of the leading businesses in [the] market, 23 member chambers of commerce, along with [the] two metropolitan planning organizations for transportation (MPOs), [the] regional transit agency GoTriangle and the City of Raleigh’s transit agency GoRaleigh, as well as the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDU). Executive Director of the RTA Joe Milazzo aims to accelerate the construction start date from 2020 to 2018. What’s the rush? Milazzo believes easing traffic congestion must happen sooner than later, especially with the Triangle’s forecasted growth.

According to the Accelerate 540 web page, the regional business community is focused on accelerating the most critical portion of the 540 extension which will connect with I-40 at the US 70/Clayton Bypass. The RTA business leadership group supports the 540 extension and completion to I-87/US 64-264 Knightdale Bypass to create a resilient regional transportation network for commuting, freight, transit, and more.

These are reasonable goals, and accelerating the construction timeline is attractive, but is it favorable, or even possible? Only time will tell. Whether it happens in 2018 or 2020, extending 540 will benefit all Triangle residents and create a connectivity beyond what we have previously known.

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