Environmental Factor, April 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
New Triangle Roadway Proposed for 2010
By Robin Arnette
Triangle residents who work in Research Triangle Park (RTP) know that the daily commute can be a test of patience at times. That's why the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA) wants to construct a six-lane, median-divided toll roadway called the Triangle Parkway(http://www.ncturnpike.org/projects/Triangle%5FParkway/default.asp) . The NCTA and the North Carolina Department of Transportation say the new 3.4 mile freeway, which will extend between NC 540 and I-40, will improve commuter mobility and accessibility to RTP while reducing congestion on NC 55 and NC 54, two other north-south roads that serve the area. The funds generated from the tolls will pay for the construction.
The NCTA issued an Environmental Assessment, a document that addresses the positive and negative impacts of the project on the environment, and held a public meeting at the Sigma Xi Auditorium on March 25. NIEHS employees had an opportunity to ask questions about the plan at an informational session held in Rodbell C on March 19. Scott Merkle, chief of the NIEHS Health and Safety Branch, led the assembly. "We're trying to make sure that the employees who commute here everyday are aware of what these changes might bring about if this project gets constructed as proposed," he said. Merkle stressed that plans for the parkway are still a work in progress and depend on successfully completing the Environmental Assessment process, securing gap funding from the North Carolina General Assembly and approval from the local metropolitan planning organization (MPO).
According to the project planners, the roadway will also alleviate future traffic strains as more people move to the Triangle, but some residents are wary. "Since the planned Triangle Parkway route brings it within 350 feet of our [FEELC] childcare center classrooms and play areas, parents are concerned about noise and air quality impacts," said Gary Bird, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Laboratory of Signal Transduction and member of the FEELC parent board. The Environmental Protection Agency and NIEHS are working together to submit joint comments on the project.
Construction contracts are scheduled to be awarded in July 2008 with the roadway opening to traffic in fall 2010. The public may submit questions or comments regarding the proposed Triangle Parkway until April 8. Please see the project Contact Us(http://www.ncturnpike.org/projects/Triangle%5FParkway/contact.asp) page for more information.