These photos, from Adam Prince, show the progress on the eastern side of the project along US 70 toward the current Business 70 off-ramp last fall:
These photos, courtesy of Adam Prince, show progress at the future I-885/NC 147 interchange, compare with previous photos regarding work in median and in constructing the future I-885 North Off-Ramp:
The contractors have begun clearing the project area, starting first on the eastern side along US 70, and now along the western side on NC 147 starting in late May. Here are some photos of the clearing along the Durham Freeway on June 20:
And of the clearing and other construction along US 70 courtesy of Adam Prince from May 20:
This future interstate highway would use an upgraded US 70 freeway East (South) from I-85 Exit 178 two miles to the planned East End Connector which would then run about a mile from US 70 to the Durham Freeway (NC 147). The route would then run south with NC 147 for about 5 more miles to I-40 Exit 270 along the Durham Freeway (planned to be widened to 6 lanes). The benefit of the I-885 proposal would be to provide a single numerical designation for drivers from I-85 to RTP and, since the East End Connector is funded as Durham's Urban Loop project, like other NC cities' urban loops, an interstate designation is appropriate. An even number is to be used since it would connect two interstates.
NCDOT officials have discussed an I-885 designation for about 10 years, but the sign plans were the first public notice of the interstate proposal. An NCDOT official says it may be necessary to upgrade parts of the Durham Freeway and US 70 (widen some of the existing shoulders outside of the Project area or request an exemption for a bridge that might not quite meet the specifications) to get federal approval. NCDOT doesn't plan to submit applications to either the FHWA or AASHTO until closer to the East End Connector project's completion, they did not do so at the AASHTO meeting in October 2019.2 Here's a map of the corridor from the News & Observer:
The East End Connector has been an official NCDOT project since the 1970s. Traffic planners in Durham had a connecting route from the Durham Freeway to US 70 in mind earlier in the 1960s when they mapped out the Durham Freeway and left space for an interchange with the Connector between Exits 8 and 11. Since there is no direct connection between the two major east-west highways in the City of Durham (Durham Freeway and US 70), motorists and truckers often use other streets to access the highway system. NCDOT estimated over the next 25 years, traffic volumes would increase significantly and without the Connector additional cut-through traffic would affect local streets and communities. The East End Connector, NCDOT argued, would provide a link among four major transportation routes (I-85, US 70, NC 147, and I-40) and facilitate better traffic flow.
The project has been shelved several times due to wrangling over competing Durham road priorities and debates over a state spending formula that always seemed to find other cities more deserving of big-project dollars.8 During the 1990s NCDOT, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Durham and Durham County all identified the East End Connector project as a priority and pressed for funding. The project was made eligible for funding under the Urban Loop construction fund in the late 1990s after the preferred NCDOT Loop project, a northern bypass which would have cut through the Eno River State Park, was opposed by city officials. The neighborhoods to be affected, largely African-American, were wary of the project, remembering how the building of the Durham Freeway through the heart of downtown during the 1960s bulldozed much of the vibrant 'Black Wall Street' area (opposition which prevented the Freeway from being completed until the late 1990s). NCDOT's preferred alternative to construct the Connector, ended up with 22 residences and 33 businesses being condemned. The final hurdle, concerns of residents of the Hayestown neighborhood, located mostly between Angier Avenue and U.S. 70, was alleviated in 2010 when NCDOT made changes in project plans to provide an improved interchange at Carr Road to preserve the neighborhood’s access to U.S. 70.12
Changes to the designations of the Durham Freeway since the start of construction have resulted in new sign plans being created. The changes result from the decision in 2019 for NC 147 to not run concurrently with I-885 on the Durham Freeway. Instead, NC 147 will only run north of the East End Connector interchange. The Triangle Expressway portion of Toll NC 147 south of I-40 will be renumbered as NC 885. Therefore, the existing exit numbers along the Durham Freeway will remain and those originally planned for the Connector and US 70 portions of I-885 will be changed (see plans below). Posted by Roadsguy on AARoads Forum, here are the new plans for I-40 signing for the Durham Freeway exit:
Here is what else Roadsguy has learned about the updated signage from his contact at NCDOT:
The plans don't include renumbering all of NC 147's exits, just Briggs
Avenue. As we've already seen, it's Exit 1 northbound. Southbound,
however, 10B and 10A become Exit 1C (speculation, not shown) and 1B,
with 1A being the southbound exit flyover to the connector. The roadway
merging onto southbound I-885 has no exit number for it. (EDIT: Has the
Exit 1B signage for Briggs Avenue on NC 147 southbound been installed
The mismatch of Exit 4/Exit 5/Exit 6B at each end of the connector is no more. The NC 147, US 70, and NC 98/US 70 Business exits are now Exit 9, Exit 10, and Exit 11, respectively.
Though none of the Triangle Expressway signage is modified in these plans (except for the one mentioned above), I imagine that nothing more needs to be done than simply slapping NC 885 shields over the NC 147 shields and "To I-885" shields over the "To NC 147" shields. (Existing signage at the 147/540 interchange treats regular/toll NC 147 and regular/toll NC 540 as separate routes for some reason.)13
More signage plans will be posted, if it becomes available.
Here are older plans for one of the signs at the future intersection between I-885/US70 and West Business 70/NC 98:
Earlier plans had the NC 98/Business 70 numbered Exits Northbound and 6A and 6B Southbound, the Cheek Road exit would have been renumbered Exit 7 (with the I-85 exit renumbered Exit 8), as seen in the plan below (these will now be Exits 11, 12 and 13):
Here was the plan for the overhead signs at the future southbound split of I-885 and US 70, the new exit number will be 10A:
Signage at the west end of the Connector was planned to appear as this when NC 147 was to run concurrently with I-885:
The Split of I-885 (to the Connector) and NC 147 northbound is to be Exit 4, as the photos above show, this is now Exit 9:
Ellis Road was to become Exit 3, as the sign plan below indicated, while Alexander Drive was to be Exit 2 and Cornwallis Road Exit 1, they will all now keep their current numbers.
Here's what the signage on NC 147 South approaching the future I-885 interchange was to look like, first at Briggs Avenue:
Then approaching the flyover ramp to the Connector, notice the 40 MPH speed limit:
The Briggs Avenue exits will now be 1C and 1B with the I-885 North Exit, 1A. Finally, here's the proposed signage on the US 70 West (which should not change):
US 70 West at start of
construction zone (December 2018)
US 70 East at NC 98 on-ramp (October 2018)
NC 147 North prior to Glover Road Bridge (November 2018)
NC 147 South at Briggs
Avenue Bridge (October 2018)