Long road ahead for improvements to NC 55 in Apex

APEX, N.C. (WNCN) – Anyone who’s ever braved a certain stretch of Highway 55 in Apex during rush hour can tell you it’s almost enough to make you swear off driving.

The area between U.S. 1 and just north of Olive Chapel Road is an artery that’s only becoming more clogged as more people move to the Triangle.

The state has decided it’s time to remove some of the blockage.

“People who drive through Apex know this is a congested area. It’s only three lanes. It’s a big growing community,” said NCDOT Spokesperson Steve Abbott.

Locals know the bad section of road as East Williams Street.

“It is constantly multiple cycles to get through some of the lights there,” said Apex Mayor Lance Olive.

NCDOT is proposing a project starting in 2022 that would make Highway 55 four lanes from its intersection with U.S. 1 to Olive Chapel Road.

“There have been a large number of rear-end collisions over time and typically rear-end collisions indicate congestion,” said Olive.

NCDOT has come up with two alternatives for this project, but neither of them would widen the stretch of road underneath a CSX rail overpass.

That portion of the road would stay three lanes.

“It’s not our bridge, it’s the railroad’s bridge, and it’s safe so they’re not going to spend money to replace it,” said Abbott.

“Ultimately in the long run though the replacement of that bridge is going to be necessary to open the whole thing up,” said Olive.

But the bridge project is low on the to-do list, and will have to wait for more state funding. For now, drivers can give their input on the current proposals. There is only a small difference between the two alternatives suggested. One would add bike lanes on the road, the other would add a multi-use path on the side of the road.

The first of several public meetings about the project is Tuesday at the Apex Town Hall from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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