WENDELL — After a recession put the development of Wendell Falls on hold for about five years, Friday marked the first tangible evidence that the town’s largest residential development is again moving forward.
More than 100 people gathered just off the Knightdale Bypass to mark the opening of Wendell Falls Parkway, the major road that will serve the development and, perhaps more importantly to some, brings an entranceway into Wendell.
The 2.6-mile road stretchs from the Knightdale Bypass to Richardson Road. The project extends Richardson Road to Poole Road. Project director Joe Lassiter said the roadway, which includes an overpass off the Knightdale Bypass, cost $28 million.
Lassiter was cited by N.C. Department of Transportation Division Engineer Wally Bowman as the force behind the effort to get the road completed.
Much of the work on the roadway had been completed in 2008, when the economy fell through the floor, causing Wachovia Bank to foreclose on the development. That brought a screeching halt to work on the roadway until earlier this fall.
“On August 11, I got a call from Joe Lassiter. He said ‘I’m going to be the one who’s going to tackle the job of trying to get this road open,’” Bowman recalled.
Bowman said the call was a welcome one. “I was getting a lot of pressure from a lot of people who wanted to know when that road was going to be opened,” Bowman said.
DOT did not pay for the road, nor did they build it. But they approved the location and planned the Knightdale Bypass with room for a future exit onto the new road. DOT also provided construction oversight and gave final sign off on the work. Now that the road is opened, it will be given to DOT, which will maintain it.
The roadway is important to many, not just because it signals movement on the sudivision it is named for. Wendell Town Manager Teresa Piner has long touted the road as a new entrance for Wendell that gives the town an opportunity to guide development of largely undeveloped land where many travelers will access Wendell and Johnston County from the west.
Wendell Mayor Tim Hinnant noted that some features of the roadway allow for development of greenways that will connect local parks.
The staffs of Wendell and Knightdale are in discussions of tying their trail systems togthe that will allow for hikers to cross the Neuse and tie into Raleigh’s greenway system,” Hinnant said.
He also called the project a boost for more than just Wendell.
“While the address of the parkway and the future development is in Wendell, the positive impacts of the project will be evident throughout the region,” Hinnant said.
After a formal ribbon cutting ceremony, dozens of cars traveled the length of the new road behind the blue lights on Wendell police Chief Bill Carter’s cruiser.
Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews