Chapel Hill neighbors shocked to find I-40 project could plow road through their homes

Eugene Casale isn’t sure if his home of 28 years in northern Chapel Hill will be there another 20 years after seeing a plan for the state’s $161 million widening of Interstate 40.

Casele and other Northwood residents were wary of future traffic spilling into their streets when a developer proposed Carraway Village, a 55-acre mixed-use project across Eubanks Road. The developer worked with the N.C. Department of Transportation and the town to plan a wider road and a new N.C. 86/Eubanks Road intersection, all of which are under construction now.

The town agreed to pay more than $1 million of the developer’s cost as an economic development incentive, and during the process, asked NCDOT to look at the I-40 interchanges, one of which is about 400 feet from Eubanks Road. The traffic backups are expected to worsen over the next 20 years, NCDOT project manager Gene Tarascio said.

But local officials and Northwood residents were shocked to learn recently that the current N.C. 86/Eubanks Road intersection upgrade could be temporary — and that a long-term fix could run through the neighborhood.

Casele said he learned about the potential five-lane road taking out his house from a restaurant server.

I-40 widening plans on the town’s website show a future Eubanks Road taking a turn south through the Northwood neighborhood, through three homes, include Casale’s, and exiting at a new N.C. 86 intersection across from Chapel Hill North. A few nearby church graves also could be affected.


The N.C. Department of Transportation proposes to reconfigure the interchange of Interstate 40 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Chapel Hill as part of a larger project to widen I-40 in Orange County.

As Casale gave a tour of the neighborhood Tuesday, he talked about how neighbors regularly walk the quiet streets and waved at those who drove past. Slow traffic, children playing signs were posted in some of the front yards. The tight-knit community is aging, he said, but new families with small children have moved in the last few years.

His and many other homes were designed by noted modernist builder J.P Goforth to fit into the woods, Casele said. While small, the modestly priced homes have vaulted ceilings that create an illusion of space, he said, and the single-story floor plans are good for older residents who want to age in place.

Casele proudly showed off the garage he added in 2006 in the Goforth style — a space where he could tinker with cars and build things in retirement.

It’s just horrifying,” he said. “A house is a house. Can I find another house of this quality that I can afford? I don’t know. Everything’s a lot more expensive. I — and everyone in the neighborhood — have taken love and tender care of this house.”

Nothing is set in stone yet, Tarascio said Thursday. The plans on the town’s website are preliminary and meant to generate public comments and ideas, he said.