James City roadwork: What’s coming up in this multi-year project

A close-up shows part of the James City U.S. 70 project that is revving up.

You’ve seen the early signs: boarded-up businesses, razed buildings, and relocations.

It’s only the beginning of 2-3 years of construction work on U.S. 70 through James City.

James City has long been a bottleneck for traffic. It is a convergence of several factors: local traffic to shopping, commuter traffic to Cherry Point, traveler traffic to the airport, and tourism traffic for people headed to and from New Bern and the coast.

James City has vexed highway engineers because there aren’t a lot of alternative routes available. Between rivers, an airport, existing neighborhoods, and a national forest, the James City area has a narrow window for highway improvement opportunities.

The​​ project will improve traffic flow and safety, N.C. DOT says. The James City project ​​is one of several along the U.S. 70 corridor​ designed to better connect the region through transportation and to upgrade U.S. 70 ​​ to an interstate (future I-42)​.​

The difference between a U.S. highway and an interstate highway is a pretty big deal.

U.S. 70 will have overpasses with exit and entrance ramps at each of the five interchanges and service roads for local business and community access. See a visualization of what the completed project will look like. ​

Doing away with intersections improves traffic flow and improves safety. It’s like the difference between a stream and a river. And industry takes note: connection to an interstate highway vastly improves the likelihood that a community so blessed can attract new and expanded industries and businesses.

Construction is beginning soon. Surveying work is underway, and utility relocation began in the fall of 2020. ​The project is anticipated to be complete in late 2023.​​

The project to make improvements to U.S. 70 in James City was awarded and will be constructed under one contract, but was divided into two smaller sections:

  • A 2.6-mile stretch of U.S. 70 from east of Thurman Road to Garner Road
  • A 2.5-mile stretch of U.S. 70 between Garner Road and the Neuse River Bridge

U.S. 70 traffic will be maintained at all times, but to minimize traffic disruptions, some lane closures and temporary overnight detours can be expected. Impacts will be minimized as much as possible by keeping the traveling public separated from construction traffic.​

Beginning construction phases

Construction will be done in phases, starting with upgrading existing and building new service roads parallel to U.S. 70. Service road traffic will then be shifted on the new service roads and U.S. 70 will undergo widening as well as ramp construction.

​Other construction phases

In later phases of the project, traffic will be shifted onto the part of U.S. 70 already widened while the U.S. 70 median will be closed to traffic.

Temporary reduced conflict intersections will be installed with traffic signals to allow motorists to make U-turns to access either side of U.S. 70.

In the final phase, bridges will be constructed at the five interchanges to raise U.S. 70 over cross streets.

Updates will be provided throughout construction to keep you up to date on activities and changes. You can view updated lane closures at DriveNC.gov​, follow NCDOT on Twitter at @NCDOT_Scoast​ or sign up at US70-JamesCity@publicinput.com to receive emails or text messages.

Other info

U.S. 70 from east of Thurman Road to Garner Road

The N.C. Department of Transportation developed designs for this section that maintain the original design concept of U.S. 70 over the secondary roads. This section includes an interchange at Taberna Way and Thurman Road. This part of U.S. 70 will be a 4-lane divided facility with a 46-foot wide grass median and cable guiderail.

NCDOT will also build and realign existing service roads, providing access to U.S. 70 for the properties along the corridor.

One of the innovations that NCDOT is bringing to the project is incorporating roundabouts on Taberna Way and Thurman Road in lieu of signalized intersections. This will improve traffic flow at the bottom of the ramps, reduce future maintenance costs, and be a safer option.

U.S. 70 from Garner Road and Neuse River Bridge

Designs for this section also maintain the original design concept of U.S. 70 over the secondary roads. This includes interchanges at Grantham Road, Airport Road, and Williams Road. This section will be a 6-lane divided facility with a 22-foot wide paved median and concrete barrier. Service roads will be realigned or constructed here as well.

Roundabouts will also be constructed on Grantham Road, Airport Road, and Williams Road to improve traffic flow. Visualizations of the roundabouts can be found in the Photos & Videos​ section of the website. ​

A reduced-conflict intersection is a ​​design that improves safety and traffic flow on a highway.

When there is a safe opening in traffic, drivers turn right to easily enter the flow of traffic on the main route. To go the other direction, or cross the highway, vehicles pull into a dedicated lane, typically less than 1,000 feet away, to make a U-turn. There might be a traffic signal at this location.

Temporary reduced-conflict intersections will be installed on U.S. 70 in a later phase of construction. This design will be necessary for traffic to access either side of U.S. 70 when the median is temporarily closed.

Read more about reduced-conflict intersections.​

Roundabouts help improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. They help reduce traffic congestion typical of a traditional intersection with stop signs or traffic signals. A driver generally enters the roundabout more quickly than if waiting at a traffic signal or stop sign.

For U.S. 70, roundabouts will be used at the exit ramps instead of traffic signals to help traffic flow. These roundabouts will improve safety and allow the intersection to function if power goes out due to storms.

Read mor​e about roundabouts​.

History (via N.C. DOT)

Community outreach began with individual meetings and small focus groups from June 2015 to September 2015.

The N.C. Department of Transportation held corridor-wide public meetings in October 2015 to gather feedback, hear concerns, and answer questions related to the proposed improvements. Information presented during these meetings can be found here.

Before moving into the design-development phase, the project team began reviewing all feedback in November 2015 to gain a clear understanding of the existing traffic, safety and operational issues in the area.

The project team returned to the James City ​community in December 2016 to present the design ideas and gather additional public comments. Based on this feedback, NCDOT selected the Preferred Alt​ernative (Alternative A1) in June 2017.

The approximately 1.75 miles between east of Thurman Road and Garner Road was added to the original project in July 2017. Both sections​ were on the same schedule of completing the preliminary planning and design process in May 2018.

Two focus group meetings were held at the Cornerstone Assembly Church in January 2018 to gather public comment and feedback on the added portion between east of Thurman Road and Garner Road.