06/17/07 — Wayne Transportation Committee sets priorities

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Wayne Transportation Committee sets priorities

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 17, 2007 2:00 AM

With traffic beginning to pick up on the new U.S. 117 bypass and improvements continuing up and down the U.S. 70 corridor, officials from Wayne County, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and other county municipalities turned an eye toward future transportation needs Thursday as they set out the seven local projects they feel will be the most pressing over the next eight years.

Now that 2009-2015 needs list will go before the county Board of Commissioners for approval Tuesday. Once that is gained, it will go to the Eastern Carolina Rural Planning Organization for consideration on Thursday. From there, it will be presented to the state Department of Transportation and added to the state improvement plan.

It is, said Wayne County planning director Connie Price, a fairly comprehensive and familiar list.

"All of these have been on this list for a while," Price said.

But only the first two have been identified by DOT as approved projects. The rest, he explained, they are hoping DOT will approve and set funding aside for in the future.

One important feature of almost all seven projects, though, Price explained, is the fact that they have a multi-county benefit.

"Since this is going to the RPO, we're trying to see what would be the most likely to get funding on a regional level," he said.

The first priority set by the committee is to complete the U.S. 70 bypass from N.C. 581 in Wayne County into Lenoir.

The second is to finish bringing U.S. 117, from U.S. 40 to U.S. 70, through Wayne, Sampson and Duplin counties, up to interstate standards.

Both of those have been approved by DOT and funding is being set aside.

The third priority identified by the committee is the need to bring U.S. 13, from U.S. 70 in Wayne County to N.C. 58 in Greene, up to freeway standards.

The fourth is to upgrade N.C. 55, from U.S. 40 in Sampson County, through Wayne, to N.C. 11 in Lenoir, to freeway status.

The fifth, which actually is focused inside Goldsboro's Metropolitan Planning Organization, is to three-lane Buck Swamp Road from N.C. 581 to Salem Church Road.

And the seventh is to assist the Goldsboro-Wayne Trans-portation Authority in its attempts to expand its routes and operations.

But it is the sixth priority that many members of the committee feel is the one with the most potential long-range impact. It calls for the re-establishment of rail lines south of Wallace in Duplin County, through Pender and into New Hanover.

"It would establish a freight connection from Goldsboro all the way to the Wilmington Port and would set the stage for re-establishing passenger rail from Raleigh, through Goldsboro, to the coast," Price said.

And that, he said, would be a boon for Wayne County, which, with its proximity to several major highways, would be a natural location for the establishment of an inland port, serving rail lines out of both Wilmington and Morehead City.