US 70 / Eastern Durham Upgrade

Overview.  The US 70 corridor in eastern Durham is the primary linkage between the US 70, I-885, and NC 147 freeways in Durham with I-540 in northwestern Wake County. In addition to serving as the primary reliever to I-40, the US 70 corridor also provides access and linkages to Downtown Durham, northwest Raleigh, and the northern entrances to Research Triangle Park (RTP) and RDU Airport.

US 70 in northwestern Wake County west of I-540 will be upgraded to a freeway in the next few years, and directly link with the US 70 corridor in eastern Durham County.

Fortunately, there is active regional study by the DCHC MPO, and an ongoing NCDOT project, to upgrade the US 70 corridor in Durham County.

Current RTA position and additional context

NCDOT continues to focus on a new location freeway for this section of US 70, with a modification of the existing US 70 alignment. RTA has long supported a multimodal, context sensitive freeway for the corridor, and we still do.

DCHC MPO current concepts only include a boulevard, and we are also open to a regional boulevard design that will provide broader regional mobility, informed by a change in vision for that corridor by our partners at the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro (DCHC) MPO.

The boulevard and freeway options both have benefits. The boulevard concepts will be less expensive to build, likely have fewer impacts that any freeway design, and still move traffic better than today, from a capacity, delay, and safety standpoint. However, either of the synchronized street/boulevard concepts will have lower capacity, as well as longer travel time/more delay, than any freeway concept.

Potential pathways forward

If one of the new location freeway options were selected for US 70, it may be possible to modify the design to reduce impacts, provide more access to the freeway, and clarify the level of multimodal access on the existing US 70 alignment.

If the boulevard option with backage roads and additional grade separations along the existing US 70 alignment were selected as the framework, it may be possible to upgrade this to a “junior freeway” design, along the lines of US 50 in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland (see resources at right), to provide reduced delay and lower impacts.

Conclusion.  The regional business community — and pretty much anyone who travels in and around the Triangle area — knows the importance of US 70 to the region. So we have to get something moving, and that means a consensus of what it can and needs to be, both now and in the future, along with a viable way to pay for it.

NCDOT Resources

Proposed new location freeway alignments (northern, southern)

DCHC MPO Resources

DCHC MPO – proposed boulevard alternatives (1-without backage roads; 2-with backage roads and additional grade separations)


RTA Resources

RTA blog on US 70  (Sep. 1, 2023)

RTA blog on DCHC MPO plan  (Oct. 14, 2021)

US 50 “junior freeway”, Queen Anne’s Co., MD

  • Example maps  (1, 2)
  • Example views  (1, 2)
  • Example exits  (1, 2)

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