- By Sarah Kiser and Emily Chilton, Co-Editors-in-Chief -
President Jo Allen is taking the lead in opposing the NCDOT’s plans to expand I-440 onto current campus land. The DOT is hoping to widen a lengthy stretch of the highway from four lanes to six and improve multiple interchanges. This section from Walnut Street to Wade Avenue is the only four-lane section remaining and is prone to high traffic volumes and frequent accidents. The state is proposing three alternatives for expanding the beltline, all of which require a significant amount of land to be seized from Meredith’s campus.
This project is the most recent in a series of projects that have cut into Meredith’s property. In remarks made at a public hearing on August 8 concerning the plan, President Allen pointed out that “previous transportation projects plus this one will result in a total of almost one-fifth of Meredith’s historic campus being taken over the years.” In addition, the campus – a state-recognized Designed Historic Landscape – will need room for new buildings and facilities in the future, and the expansion “plan will significantly compromise our ability to continue growing,” said Allen.
All three alternatives that the NCDOT has proposed will require at least 13 acres from the campus, and all cut into the main commuter lots to varying degrees. Alternative A takes less from the northwestern corner and more from the southwestern beside the Oaks; Alternative B carves the furthest into the commuter lots and athletic field; and Alternative C, while touted as the least impactful, still takes 14.5 acres, dipping into a large chunk of the athletic field and into North & West Campus Drives.
Although the plan does report how much land will be taken and lists this as an “adverse impact,” it does not take into account the consequences of flyover bridges and lighting poles that will encroach onto Meredith’s land. As Dr. Allen stated, “It does not even mention the effects of the proposed 100-foot tall lighting masts along the entire western side of our campus. The report fails to speak to the visual impacts of highway infrastructure and flyover bridges that will loom four to five stories over the campus.”
The NCDOT is open to public comment on the proposed changes along the beltline until August 22. Dr. Allen and the college are encouraging students, faculty, and alumnae to voice their opinion in support of new plans that will have fewer impacts on our campus. Perhaps the easiest option is to go online to leave a comment at https://ncdot.publicinput.com/. Make sure to leave your comment on the Hillsborough/Wade Ave. interchange plan.You can also call (919) 707-6178, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write a letter to North Carolina Department of Transportation, 1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1548.
Read more about the expansion below.