05/12/05 — Toll roads discussed for new 70 bypasses

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Toll roads discussed for new 70 bypasses

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 12, 2005 1:57 PM

KINSTON -- Limited state transportation dollars could lead to new U.S. 70 bypasses, including one around Goldsboro, being built as toll roads.

State and local officials said they need to explore unconventional ideas in order to speed up highway traffic between Raleigh and Morehead City.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith and county commissioners plan to organize a U.S. 70 Association to talk about ideas raised during the U.S. 70 Corridor Summit, which was held Wednesday at the Global TransPark's education center.

The first meeting will be held within 30 days, Smith said.

Only small sections of U.S. 70 East now meet freeway standards. It could cost more than $1 billion to build all the bypasses needed to improve the entire stretch, Department of Transportation officials said.

The DOT has identified $84 billion in transportation needs over the next 25 years, but it only expects to have enough money to cover about two-thirds of those projects, said engineer Laura Cove.

That does not bode well for U.S. 70, said the summit's organizer, Cam McRae, a member of the state Board of Transportation.

Local and state officials will need to explore "non-traditional funding options" if they want to assure their highway priorities get built, McRae said.

One option could be tollroads, said Lanny Wilson, also a member of the state Board of Transportation and vice chairman of the N.C. Turnpike Authority.

The General Assembly created the authority in 2002 and authorized it to construct, operate and maintain up to six toll roads in the state. The authority is currently working on projects in Wilmington, the Triangle, Gastonia and Monroe, but it still can accept two more, Wilson said.

The state won't allow tolls to be collected on existing roads, he said. But new bypasses could be an option.

The DOT plans five bypasses between Raleigh and the coast, but only one is totally funded so far.

Contracts will be let later this month for the Clayton bypass and construction should begin this summer. The bypass, which will run from south of Clayton to Interstate 40, north of N.C. 42, should open by summer 2009, engineer Dewayne Sykes said.

The state is buying rights-of-way for portions of the Goldsboro bypass, and construction of one segment is scheduled to begin in 2008. But the DOT does not have money budgeted to begin the other segments of the Wayne portion of the bypass before 2012.

The state has no schedule to build the Kinston, Havelock or North Carteret bypasses or the Gallants Channel bridge, which would replace a narrow drawbridge connecting Morehead City and Beaufort.

Making the money even tighter is the fact that Wayne County is in DOT's Division 4, which has overspent its transportation dollars in recent years. Other divisions expect to receive a greater percentage of money for new projects in upcoming budgets.

More than 100 city and county officials, businessmen and others attended the summit. They included Wayne County commissioners Andy Anderson, Jack Best, Atlas Price and Efton Sager and county Planning Director Connie Price; Goldsboro Councilman Chuck Allen, City Manager Joe Huffman and city Planner Darryl Best; Wayne Community College President Ed Wilson; and businessmen Hal Keck, Sandy Korschun and Dave Quick.