DURHAM – The N.C. Department of Transportation opened the Durham
East End Connector today following a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by local and state officials this morning.
The project has a long history. It was first discussed in the 1950s as part of Durham’s Thoroughfare Plan. The project was planned in the 1980s in conjunction with the Durham Freeway, which opened in 1990s, but the connector was not funded and built at that time.
The project was studied again in the 2000s and following rounds of public input, preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition, a contract was awarded and the project began in 2015.
Following seven years of construction, the $160-million project to link Durham Freeway (N.C. 147) and U.S. 70 and provide a stoplight-free drive between Interstates 85 and 40 is complete.
complex project contains almost every aspect of major heavy civil highway construction. It includes both concrete and asphalt paving; 16 bridges, including flyover structures, railroad bridges, a scissor bridge and four rehabbed bridges; four different types of walls; and four culverts.
Completion of the connector is expected to alleviate congestion on the Durham Freeway and U.S. 15-501 through Durham, and divert traffic from local roads, such as Duke, Gregson, Mangum and Roxboro streets.
The East End Connector has regional importance as well. Its opening is expected to promote economic development in areas along the I-85 corridor toward Virginia by improving access for travel and the transportation of goods between the counties north of Durham and major employment and retail centers, including RTP, RDU Airport and locations in Wake County.
The opening coincides with a new interstate designation: I-885, which now runs concurrent with U.S. 70 south from I-85 to the connector and then south on former N.C. 147 to I-40. N.C. 147 no longer begins at I-40; it now runs between the connector and I-85 in northwest Durham.
Signage denoting the new I-885 designation was installed over the past couple months. Some exit numbers on U.S. 70 and N.C. 147 have changed. Former Toll N.C. 147, which goes from I-40 south to Toll N.C. 540, has also changed to Toll N.C. 885.