09/10/04 — U.S. 70 push gets results, say officials

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U.S. 70 push gets results, say officials

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on September 10, 2004 1:59 PM

Recent talks about a U.S. 70 bypass haven't yet resulted in either a single stoplight's removal or a square inch of asphalt being poured.

But N.C. Department of Transportation officials have started to pay attention, the Wayne County Transportation Committee heard Thursday.

Both Nancy Stallings, executive director of the Global TransPark Foundation, and Jim Daughtry, director of the Eastern Carolina Council of Governments, told the committee that they are seeing widespread interest in the U.S. 70 discussions.

"I've never seen such excitement," said Mrs. Stallings, a former DOT official.

County Manager Lee Smith believes that the counties along U.S. 70 East may have found a way to break through the delays that have hamstrung highway projects.

Officials who have been successful in pitching road projects "have spoken with one voice," Smith said. "That doesn't mean they've been in 100 percent agreement on all phases, but they have been supportive of each others' needs."

Smith has recently met with DOT officials and board members, all of whom have been supportive of the new approach, he said during the meeting at Wilber's Restaurant.

The Wayne County commissioners voted this week to spend up to $125,000 over the next five years to hire a consultant who will lobby DOT for U.S. 70 improvements. The consultant will also work with local governments to assure that they reserve land for bypasses. The aim is a controlled access freeway from Interstate 40 in Raleigh to the port in Morehead City.

Similar financial commitments are being sought from Johnston, Lenoir, Craven and Carteret counties.

The counties are asking DOT to begin a corridor study that would include environmental studies and begin protection of future highway sections. They also want a single DOT staff person assigned to oversee all U.S. 70 projects.