10/14/09 — Leaders: U.S. 70 needs to be top priority

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Leaders: U.S. 70 needs to be top priority

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 14, 2009 1:46 PM

KINSTON -- Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Transportation Secretary Gene Conti Tuesday morning said they want to see the U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass project expedited.

State Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco weighed in as well, expressing frustration over the drawn out timetable that doesn't have the road done until after 2035.

The governor and her two Cabinet members were here for a meeting of the Global TransPark board of directors. Crisco was in Goldsboro later in the day when he was the speaker for the Goldsboro Rotary Club meeting.

There were no new commitments of funding or specifics of how that acceleration could be accomplished.

They did agree that a new four-laned U.S. 70 is critical to opening up all of eastern N.C. to Interstates 795, 40 and 95.

The comments echo those of county Commissioner Jack Best who serves on the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization. The project tops the MPO's priority list.

"We are working as expeditiously as we can on the DOT projects," Gov. Perdue said in an interview. "We are going to have a different set of funding options for local governments and for this 70 corridor."

She did not elaborate on what form those funding options might take.

"The Highway 70 Committee that has been active since I was in the Senate has really stepped up," she said. "The Goldsboro Bypass is critically important to getting to the rest of eastern N.C. so I am on that. Again, we have to figure out how to fund it and I think you will see us quickly bring new funding mechanisms for the state. I am going to transform government so we will not have to rely on the gas tax."

Conti said "a lot of progress" has been made on the U.S. 70 corridor.

"We continue to have challenges like the Goldsboro Bypass project," he said. "Our funding has been reduced over the last couple of years. We are exploring a lot of different options -- like public/private partnerships -- things that may give us additional resources to work on this. We are certainly going to accelerate that particular project in Goldsboro as fast as we can. There is no reason for us to want to hesitate."

The state is currently going through the process of reprioritizing, making sure it is spending money where it is most effective, he said.

"That will be part of our review over the next six months," Conti said. "I would hope that we could do better than (2035). Again, we don't have the final answer on that, but over the next six months, we'll be putting those priorities in place. We would love to accelerate that project because it is important for all of eastern N.C. not just Goldsboro."

Crisco agreed.

"It is very important," he said. "I am frustrated. We have got to get it moved up. We have tremendous needs, but 2035 seems like a long ways to me."

The bypass is being built in four sections and eventually will span from N.C. 581 to Promise Road at the Wayne-Lenoir county line.

Work is under way on the first section from near Salem Church Road to just east of Wayne Memorial Drive.

The other three phases are:

* Section A from existing U.S. 70 west of N.C. 581 to Interstate 795

* Section B from Wayne Memorial Drive and the new U.S. 70 Bypass to east of Parkstown Road

* Section C from east of Parkstown Road to U.S. 70 at Promise Lane Road near LaGrange.

Some questions have been raised as to why Section A was rated ahead of Section C since Section C would open up the eastern part of the state.

The answer has been that without the other two sections, it would be a road connected to nothing. Also, Section A is seen as the way to open up development in the northern part of the county.

Work started Sept. 29 on the $65.3 million first leg of the project being constructed by Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro. The completion date is November 2011.

The bypass is part of a planned four-lane divided highway from Clayton to the coast. The local overall bypass project is expected to cost about $234 million.