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Sunset interchange set for 2023 completion

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State transportation board member Gus Tulloss, left, and District Engineer Bobby Liverman look at road changes Tuesday at the District Engineer Office of Nash and Wilson County in Nashville.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Motorists are eventually going to see major state highway improvement projects in Nash County become a reality.

A key project is to convert the Sunset Avenue and Eastern Avenue corridor from mostly two lanes to a four-lane superstreet from Little Easonburg on the northwest side of Rocky Mount to Red Oak Road on the east side of Nashville. Most significantly, the project includes building a new four-lane overpass and a part-cloverleaf interchange for Sunset at Interstate 95.

State Transportation District Engineer Bobby Liverman said the bids are going to be unsealed in mid-October for the work on Sunset and Eastern avenues and the construction of the I-95/Sunset interchange. Liverman estimates the project is going to cost approximately $100 million and be complete by early November 2023.

Transforming Sunset and Eastern into superstreets means both are going to be divided four-lane routes with roundabouts, which are circle junctions.

On Sunset, roundabouts are going to be on each side of the I-95/Sunset interchange. The roundabout on the west side of the interchange also is going to provide access to Freight Road and Banner Way.

Another roundabout on Sunset is going to be at Arrow Road.

The signal intersection at Sunset and Eastern and Old Carriage Road is going to remain.

Heading on Eastern toward Nashville, the roundabout already in place for Nash Community College is going to be widened by one lane.

Continuing on Eastern toward Nashville, roundabouts are going to be at Old Spring Hope Road, at Kamlar Road and at Regency Drive.

In Nashville, the signal intersection of Eastern and Eastpointe Avenue is going to remain.

Once Sunset and Eastern become superstreets, motorists approaching from side roads and side streets are going to have to turn right. They can go to the roundabouts and make a U-turn to get to the opposite side of Sunset or Eastern.

Another major project in Nash County calls for converting the mostly two-lane Old Carriage to a four-lane superstreet north from Sunset and Eastern to the interchange with U.S. 64. A roundabout is going to provide access to Nash Community College from Old Carriage.

The project also calls for replacing the two-lane Old Carriage overpass at U.S. 64 with a four-lane overpass. Roundabouts also are going to be on each side of the new overpass.

North of U.S. 64, Old Carriage is going to be shifted to a new roadway toward Reges Store and Green Hills roads.

That new part of Old Carriage is going to have two lanes and a center turn lane. A roundabout is going to be at the junction of Old Carriage and Reges Store and Green Hills.

Liverman said the bids for the work on Old Carriage are going to be unsealed in July 2020, with no completion date or specific cost yet available.

The state Transportation Department website has had the project cost estimated at $29.6 million, but the project had been delayed due to the state diverting funds for hurricane relief.

Both Liverman and state Transportation Division 4 board member Gus Tulloss showed the details of proposed projects in the Rocky Mount area to the Telegram recently.

“I’m tickled that all of it’s going on,” Liverman said. “We’re making our roads safer. We’re opening our roads up to be more accessible to the public to get to where they want to go.”

Not everyone is happy with the state is about to do.

Denise Sykes, who co-owns American Jewelry & Pawn along Sunset, is not in favor of the I-95/Sunset interchange and of four-laning the avenue. Sykes said if motorists want to get on I-95, they can still take Old Carriage to U.S. 64.

Sykes also noted the state widened the part of Sunset in front of the pawn shop once before, which meant a loss of land for her family business.

She also believes tax dollars can be spent elsewhere to help make fixes locally, saying, “Rocky Mount has got enough problems as it is without spending all this money on a road.”

David Wooten, of Raleigh, is a former Nash County resident who returns to see family members.

Wooten said he believes the state investments will help Nash County grow and help the Rocky Mount area rebound from lean years.

At the same time, he said he believes the area to the west of the city is going to grow because taxes tend to be lower in Nashville.

“And people tend to migrate where they can save money,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part report about upcoming state road projects in the area.