U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Walter Jones sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last week asking that the federal government approve the N.C. Department of Transportation’s request to designate portions of U.S. 264 as a future interstate highway.
The DOT’s request, made back in September, asked that U.S. 264 between I-87 in Zebulon and the Greenville bypass in Pitt County be designated as a high-priority corridor and future interstate. That path includes the portion of U.S. 264 that runs through Wilson County.
Greenville is the 10th-largest city in the Tar Heel State and the largest without interstate highway access.
If approved, the future interstate would connect eastern North Carolina with I-95, Virginia, South Carolina and the rest of the East Coast.
In Butterfield and Jones’ letter, the congressmen describe the proposal as a “logical spur off of Interstate 795 near Wilson.”
“Approving portions of U.S. Highway 264 as a future interstate would be an important step in my long-term vision for better connecting eastern North Carolina with the entire Eastern Seaboard,” said Butterfield. “Eastern North Carolinians deserve modern transportation infrastructure that meet their needs and the potential benefits of this future interstate, if approved, are enormous.”
Butterfield, D-Wilson, represents North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, while Jones, R-Farmville, represents the 3rd District.
If the plan is approved, the state DOT has committed to upgrading the stretch of U.S. 264 to interstate standards within 25 years.
In their letter to the federal DOT, Butterfield and Jones said upgrading the proposed route would be cost-effective and would build on existing infrastructure, because many portions of U.S. 264 are already built to interstate standards.
Interstate highway standards require all access on and off the road to be controlled with interchanges and grade seperations, a minimum design speed of 70 miles per hour in rural areas, and at least two lanes in each direction.
There are also standards that regulate medians, shoulders, slope, clearance and bridges on interstate highways.
In Butterfield and Jones’ letter, they asked the DOT to approved the request and sign a memorandum of understanding to make the partnership official.
“By approving this application and signing an MOU with the state, we can work in partnership with NCDOT to prioritize upgrading this route and boost eastern North Carolina’s regional economy,” the letter read.
Jones said this designation would benefit the region for decades to come.
“Connecting eastern North Carolina to neighboring states and regions will play a crucial role in the sustainable long-term growth of the area,” said Jones. “As a booming center of innovation across a wide range of industries, it is vital that the greater Greenville area has access to high-quality infrastructure and transportation.”