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Paper: Expecting I-785? It may be awhile.

In Saturday's Greensboro News Record, there was a lengthy article discussing the progress on the Future I-785 corridor. Well make that the lack of progress.

Since the corridor's designation in 1997 - the first Future I-785 Corridor sign were first posted in June 1998, there has been not much done to upgrade current US 29 in Guilford or Rockingham Counties to an Interstate quality highway. US 29/Future I-785 also cuts through the northwest corner of Caswell County.

The cost to upgrade the highway has doubled from an estimated $100 million in 1998 to $200 million today. Most of the upgrading would be on a four lane at-grade section of US 29 from southern Rockingham County to Greensboro. US 29 from Reidsville north to the to the Virginia border is currently a freeway with not as much upgrading necessary.

Currently, the state funding priorities have been towards completing the Greensboro Urban Loop (Interstate 840) and upgrading US 220 to Interstate 73. Interstate 785 may be routed on the Northeast corner of the Greensboro Loop. That section from US 29 southwards to the completed portion of the highway at US 70 is scheduled to begin land acquisition in 2009 followed by the start of construction in 2011. The estimated cost for that section of Interstate 840 is $117 million.

Story:
Road of uncertainty: The proposed I-785 corridor ---Greensboro News-Record

Commentary:
Will Interstate 785 ever exist? That's a good question. Is there a need for an interstate from Greensboro to Danville? Another good question.

Let me answer the second first. There is a need for a freeway NOT an Interstate from Greensboro to Danville. Over 1/2 of US 29 from I-40 to US 360 in Danville is a freeway. Most of it has been built over the last 30 years. Immediately north of I-40, US 29 is an urban freeway with no emergency shoulders, only a concrete barrier with no median separating opposing lanes of traffic. Very narrow and tight ramps to city streets. Also around NC A&T, spectators for sporting events park along what emergency shoulders still remain.

For years on the NC State Highway Map, the Greensboro section of US 29 had been listed as a freeway, it's not any more. Beyond the city limits as you head north towards Reidsville, a center grass median exists, but there are numerous at grade intersections, traffic lights, access roads, etc. that are part of the corridor. This is the section that will need the most upgrading.

If I-785 does come to pass, and I don't think it will be seen for another 20 years if not more, it should be routed along I-840 to eliminate the need, and the cost, to do a major upgrade of US 29 through Greensboro.

But if you aren't going to source funding for the project and there's no urgency to do so, why even try to promote it as a 'FUTURE INTERSTATE CORRIDOR' when nothing is going to be done for another 20 years from now, which is 30 years after the idea was first conceived.

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