09/08/04 — Wayne to spend $125,000 to boost bypass prospects

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Wayne to spend $125,000 to boost bypass prospects

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on September 8, 2004 2:02 PM

Wayne County will spend up to $125,000 to push for bypasses, freeway upgrades and other improvements along U.S. 70 East.

The county commissioners agreed Tuesday to join a multi-county effort to ask the N.C. Department of Transportation for U.S. 70 projects.

The aim is a controlled-access freeway from Interstate 40 in Raleigh to the port in Morehead City.

Each of the counties along the highway is being asked to dedicate as much as $25,000 a year for five years to hire a consultant who would be a liaison between DOT and local governments.

Commissioner Jack Best suggested that Wayne County be the first to make the commitment. "We should be the leaders," he said.

Commissioner Andy Anderson was the only commissioner to raise objections. He wondered if the board should make a decision like this outside its usual budget cycle. Also, would this distract DOT from Wayne's other transportation needs, such as the continuation of the U.S. 117 Bypass, he asked.

But Anderson joined the board in the unanimous vote of support.

The Eastern Carolina Council of Governments brought together representatives of U.S. 70's "corridor counties," primarily Johnston, Wayne, Lenoir, Craven and Carteret, this summer to discuss ideas for making the highway a DOT priority. City and business leaders were also invited.

The group has informally agreed on the consultant plan. Each county is expected to contribute up to $25,000 per year, but that might include a mix of public and private funds.

The consultant would lobby DOT to make U.S. 70 a priority. That would include ordering a corridor study for the entire Raleigh-to-Morehead-City section. The state would be asked to begin environmental studies and protection of future highway sections.

The consultant would also work with county and municipal governments along the route. Land-use, transportation and other plans would need to protect and consider highway corridors.

Perhaps the most important thing a consultant would do is promote a consistent vision of the future U.S. 70, said County Manager Lee Smith. DOT has not been anxious to fund U.S. 70 improvements that have lacked universal support.

"Our problem is that we don't sing with the same voice every day," Smith said.

Commissioner Atlas Price said that an improved U.S. 70 would greatly assist Morehead City, the state's best deep-water port. Around 90 percent of the port's shipments are heading west of Raleigh, Price said.