Western beltway leaps up on road list

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A draft transportation-spending plan released by the N.C. Department of Transportation on Wednesday for the first time sets dollars and dates for the start of work on nearly all segments of the western leg of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway.

The segments of the western leg will still have to undergo review over the coming years to see where they stand in priority among road projects.

But the placement of most of the western segments in at least the last year of the state’s proposed 2018-2027 transportation plan is a big step forward for the project, according to Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the DOT division that includes Forsyth County.

“As long as it is supported locally, and we know that it is, it will move up in priority,” Ivey said.

If the plan becomes official, the only beltway segment remaining without a timetable would be Segment A linking U.S. 158 (South Stratford Road) to Interstate 40 on the western side of Forsyth County.

According to the draft plan, the beltway segment from N.C. 67 to U.S. 52 is scheduled for right of way, utility and construction work in the 2024-27 period at a cost of $44.1 million.

Most of the money for the western leg is scheduled for 2027, the last year of the proposed transportation plan: $27.6 million for right of way purchases, $9.3 million for utility work and $12.9 million for construction costs.

Still unfunded would be significant construction expenses that extend beyond 2027, which would have to be covered in future transportation plans. Those expenses are estimated at $235.4 million, plus $63.2 million for right of way, utility work and construction on Segment A.

The N.C. Board of Transportation will consider approval of the transportation plan this summer. In the meantime the DOT will be taking public comments on the draft plan.

The Northern Beltway will be a 34-mile freeway wrapping around the north side of Winston-Salem from I- 74/U.S. 311 southeast of Winston-Salem to U.S. 158 on the southwest side of the city near Clemmons.

One segment of the eastern leg of the beltway is currently under construction: That segment will connect Business 40 to Reidsville Road near Walkertown.

In 2016, the state transportation board approved a plan to speed up construction on the eastern leg of the beltway, which is now fully included in transportation funding and construction plans. But most of the western leg of the beltway remained in the limbo, outside the state’s timetables.

As work and plans on the beltway have moved forward, so have legal challenges: From 2011 forward, hundreds of landowners in the path of both the eastern and western beltway legs have sued the DOT to force the department to buy their lands.

Last summer, the N.C. Supreme Court found that the state had indeed caused a “fundamental taking of property rights” by the corridor designation but left it to Forsyth Superior Court to further examine the claims and determine compensation.

When the Superior Court started that process in October and called on the state to begin making appraisals and putting down deposits on land, the state appealed the procedure to the N.C. Court of Appeals, where it now awaits a hearing.

Ivey said the estimates developed in the draft transportation plan are completely unrelated to the claims made in the lawsuits, which would include interest payments and legal fees.

“It has nothing to do with the lawsuit,” he said.

wyoung@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7369 @wyoungWSJ

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