LOUISBURG, N.C. (WNCN) — Traffic along U.S. 401 wasn’t an issue when Louisburg Mayor Christopher Neal was growing up.

“This was a rural area,” he said. 

In recent years, more people have chosen to settle down in communities north of Raleigh. As they do, Neal can’t help but notice an increase in traffic on the highway

“The growth is coming from Wake County. Businesses are coming here. Citizens are moving here, as well,’ said Neal.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is celebrating the completion of a U.S. 401 widening project aimed at easing traffic going into Louisburg.

“It provides opportunity. Our roadways are tied to economic development, so [this project] provides opportunity for Louisburg and beyond to have a benefit of a four-lane divided facility,” said NCDOT division engineer, Brandon Jones. 

Previously a two-lane road, the six-mile stretch of U.S. 401 just south of Louisburg is now a four-lane divided highway with a grassy median. 

“It’s what we call a reduced conflict corridor. You won’t see a lot of stoplights. Sometimes you may have to turn right to do a U-turn, depending on where you want to go. That improves mobility and it’s a lot safer corridor than our traditional intersections,” Jones explained. 

Nearly 60,000 vehicles travel up and down the corridor every day. That’s expected to reach more than 90,000 in the next 20 years. State and local leaders know they need to get ahead of this traffic before it gets ahead of them.

While NCDOT has completed the $80 million widening of U.S. 401, planning is underway to transform a section of Capital Boulevard, between I-540 and Wake Forest– into a freeway. Both stretches are primary roadways for north to south commuters. Both also experience increasing traffic volumes at peak times. 

“One thing that we would like to do here in Louisburg is to manage that growth. We don’t want to make the mistake of failing to not properly manage it, to make mistakes, that some municipalities have made,” Neal said. 

NCDOT is also unveiling a future widening project further north on U.S. 401. Construction won’t start there until 2031. It’s a sign that things won’t be slowing down here.

Before that gets underway, improvements are planned for the U.S. 401/Ligon Mill Road/Mitchell Mill Road/Perry Creek Road intersection. That $37 million project is aimed at reducing congestion and improving traffic in the area.