03/10/06 — Lenoir to join effort for U.S. 70 corridor

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Lenoir to join effort for U.S. 70 corridor

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 10, 2006 1:55 PM

The coalition needed to push through the Highway 70 corridor project is one county closer to getting the support needed for the project, members of the Wayne County Transportation Committee learned Thursday.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said Lenoir County agreed this month to join the corridor coalition. He added that Wayne County officials will meet with Jones County officials next week to discuss their role in the project.

If county officials work with consultant Kimley-Horn, Smith said, they can inform the entire region about the benefits of a 134-mile Highway 70 corridor that would stretch from Clayton to Morehead City.

"We can let them know how the improvements will help. We can get the public and industry involved and spend time educating the counties on the plan and the work with things like zoning, planning and each county's land use plan," he said.

The goal is to include Carteret, Craven, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir and Wayne counties as a part of the corridor commission. Each county would provide $25,000 a year, which would provide enough money to gain possible state and federal support for the corridor, Smith said. The commission would also gain more support by developing a corridor plan through regular meetings among the counties and Kimley-Horn, he added.

Most of the counties have pledged financial support

Goldsboro City Councilman Chuck Allen said two sections of the Highway 70 corridor are funded, but the remaining two aren't, which causes a problem with the timeline for completion.

"One section is funded for 2012, which means we are looking at 2025 to get this thing done, and that is almost ridiculous," Allen said.

The commission and county officials will continue to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other state officials to look into toll roads and bonds to expedite the process, he said.

If the Wayne County section of the corridor, which would begin west of Rosewood and end in Lenoir County, is completed, Allen said it would boost other counties to join and to help complete the corridor.

"I'm not saying it's a done deal, but we want to explore what we can do and get support from whoever can help," Allen said.

The committee approved looking for more support on the project and having other organizations discuss the topic during their meetings.

The counties also will have a new person to help provide input and federal funding to the project.

Wayne County Commissioner Atlas Price introduced Jill Stark, an employee of the Federal Highway Office. Ms. Stark formerly worked for the office's Utah division and has only been in North Carolina for two months. During her introduction, she said that she would try to help the state's transportation projects in any way she could.

In other business, N.C. Department of Transportation Engineer Kurt Frietag said the projected date for traffic counts for the department's long-range Mount Olive study is May 12. He said there will be 56 daily traffic counts, plus additional counts during the study.

The south end of U.S. 117 is being resurfaced, but NCDOT Assistant District Engineer Marcus Lee said the project will be completed in about six weeks. Construction on the U.S. 117 bridge in Wilson, however, will not be complete until September, he said.