09/06/10 — Mount Olive works to update long-term transportation plan

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Mount Olive works to update long-term transportation plan

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on September 6, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Town of Mount Olive will update its long-range transportation plan for the first time in more than 16 years.

The multi-modal plan will look at all aspects of town transportation, from studying busy road intersections to examining bicycle paths, pedestrian walkways and even railroad operations. The goal is to produce a document that will serve as a baseline for town policymakers as they decide what the town's transportation infrastructure will look like in the future.

Representatives from the Eastern North Carolina Rural Planning Organization and the state Department of Transportation met Thursday with the Mount Olive town board, discussing how the planning process will work.

The town has a long-range transportation plan on record from 1994. One of the first steps will be to examine the existing plan to see which recommendations have been implemented and why others have not been developed, project engineer Carlos Moya-Astudillo said.

After collecting data about the town's transportation needs, the planners will analyze population statistics and take into account the town's potential growth over the next 30 years before coming back to the board members with preliminary recommendations for their consideration.

The town has needed to update the plan for a while and was on a waiting list for state assistance, Town Manager Charles Brown said.

"Our name has finally been pulled out of the lottery," he said.

The plan will be completely paid for by the state Department of Transportation.

Just having the long-range plan on the books does not guarantee that all of the recommendations will be implemented - as outlined in the plan, or at all - but it is a good "wish list" to have on record when seeking grant funding or other types of monies, Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. said.

The public will have the opportunity to add their own thoughts to the project through a public input workshop and public hearings before the plan is ultimately adopted by the town board. Town officials will also play a big role in developing the plan, RPO representative Patrick Flanagan said.

"We want you to be involved at every step of the process," he said.

The long-range transportation plan must be accepted by the Eastern North Carolina RPO and the state Department of Transportation before it is finalized. The planning process may take up to two years before producing an approved product.

Brown and McDonald are both affiliated with the Eastern North Carolina Rural Planning Organization.

The town is also currently working with the state on a long-range land use plan.

Town board members heard about one transportation-related issue in particular at the meeting, as town resident Vickie Darden again addressed the board about a busy railroad crossing at the south end of town.

The railroad intersection at County Road and Center Street does not have a crossing arm, and sometimes the warning lights do not flash when a train is approaching, she told the board in January. The rail safety division conducted a safety study of the intersection, which handles about 3,000 cars a day, and recommended installing a crossing arm.

However, town officials realized there was a mix-up after state representatives said the town would have to pay $20,000 of the $210,000 crossing project.

The state Department of Transportation mistakenly addressed a different intersection at Hillsboro Street and Center Street, which also does not have a crossing arm, but sees far less traffic and is on a dead-end road, Brown said.

The state controls the County Road intersection and would be totally responsible for funding the crossing arm, according to the town manager.

Brown reported he has already contacted the state about examining the correct intersection.