RALEIGH - The N.C. Department of Transportation
opened the Booker Dairy Road Extension/M. Durwood Stephenson Highway
in Johnston County to traffic this afternoon. The road runs 2.3 miles from the intersection of the existing Booker Dairy Road and Buffalo Road west across the Neuse River and Wilsons Mill Road to U.S. 70 Business in Smithfield. A $14.3 million contract was awarded to S.T. Wooten Corp. of Wilson for the project. It was one of the first projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to break ground. Work began in summer 2009 and was originally scheduled for completion by Dec. 31, 2011. Booker Dairy Road is identified as a major urban thoroughfare in the Smithfield Thoroughfare Plan. The extension serves as another east-west route to reduce congestion and improve mobility throughout Smithfield. It will improve emergency response efforts during flood conditions by providing an additional crossing of the Neuse River, and serve as a detour during the upcoming Neuse River Bridge replacement project on U.S. 70 Business in downtown Smithfield. The road was officially named after local philanthropist and businessman M. Durwood Stephenson in a ceremony on Sept. 26. The naming of the Booker Dairy Road Extension in Stephenson's honor was requested by the Smithfield Town Council. The N.C. Board of Transportation passed a resolution approving the naming on Aug. 4.