09/09/10 — Leaders table talk of U.S. 70 priorities

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Leaders table talk of U.S. 70 priorities

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 9, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners' discussion of access management on the U.S. 70 bypass project came to an abrupt end Tuesday without the board responding to a request by the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission for its endorsement of a proposed priority list.

The commissioners tabled the issue even though the first phase of the project in Wayne County has already been completed.

Board Chairman Jack Best was greeted by silence when he asked if there was a motion following the discussion of the request. There was no indication of when commissioners would take up the issue again. Officially, it was tabled.

The board's endorsement had been sought by the Corridor Commission, which is made up of all the counties through which the highway passes, from Johnston to Carteret.

The Wayne County Transportation Committee approved the list last month.

The top priority, the Grantham Street ramps and closing access to Florida Street and the ramp to the state Highway Patrol station, has been completed.

Other priorities in descending order are:

* Installing a median reverse leftover concurrent with driveway consolidation and parking circulation improvement near Wilber's Barbecue.

* Installing directional mainline leftover at Ebenezer Road/Capps Bridge.

* Installing new finding/directional signs and possibly a dedicated right turn prior to the intersection with William Street.

* Closing eastbound access to the service road east of William Street.

* Closing westbound access to the service road near the hotel site just east of the Pizza Inn on U.S. 70 West will be one of several projects Wayne County commissioners will be asked to endorse when they meet Tuesday. Complementing that closure would be installation of a westbound dedicated deceleration lane to access the service road at the Pizza Inn.

"A question was asked of me during the break as far as our jurisdiction -- only one of these fall under planning jurisdiction under Wayne County and that it is No. 3 (Ebenezer Road/Capps Bridge)," County Manager Lee Smith said.

Commissioner J.D. Evans questioned the timetable for the work.

"There is no timetable," Best said. "DOT is doing it as money is available."

Commissioner Steve Keen, who also serves on the county Planning Board, had the most questions about the six-item priority list. For the most part, his questions centered on the list's origin, the need for Planning Board review and for an economic impact study.

While some commissioners appeared unaware of the plan, Smith said that the access management plan is now six years old.

The plan was commissioned by the state Department of Transportation and carried out by Kimley-Horn, the company that is now the consultant for the Corridor Commission.

"Kimley-Horn has taken that access management plan and is working with DOT to update those (priorities)," said Smith, who is a member of the commission. "They are asking for counties to look at them and make sure that they are still valid.

"But what we have done on the 70 Commission is that each county has DOT go in and prioritize based on fatalities, injuries, property damages, contact points, those kind of things because it (priority) is based on safety, mobility, movement and flow of traffic."

The priorities have not varied since that time, he said.

"It is all about safety," Best said.

Keen said he didn't realize that DOT had adopted the 70 Corridor plan.

"It is (the state's) plan," Smith said. "NCDOT did that, Kimley-Horn was working for NCDOT. The commission took up that plan after it was formed. That was part of the retrofit of existing 70 along with the new bypass.

"The 70 Commission has publicized it and updated it with DOT through the counties. It was done by DOT and paid for by DOT."

Keen said he wanted to study each of the priorities before voting on them. He said he was aware of an economic impact study that had been conducted in Lenoir County. A similar one is needed in Wayne County, he said.

"Close off the east access point between William Street and Wayne Memorial Drive -- has there been a study taking that traffic to the (U.S. 70/Wayne Memorial Drive) interchange?" he said. "Economically speaking, I am not sure if that will affect the businesses."

Smith said an economic impact study has been authorized through East Carolina University.

"That is being done now," Smith said. "I think we have needed that from Raleigh to Morehead City now for a long time."

Keen said the Lenoir County study for U.S. 70 indicated an estimated $311 million tax base. Wayne County has a similar study that is not as extensive as the one in Lenoir County.

Keen reiterated that he did not want to take action on the priority list until there is a better understanding of the economic impact to businesses.

Wilber's Barbecue is a good example, he said. Keen questioned whether the business would continue to have direct access to eastbound and westbound traffic.

He questioned if the same would hold true at Capps Bridge.

Freeway priorities on the list are devoted to the U.S. 70 Bypass project, the first section of which is under construction. The bypass is being built in four sections and eventually will stretch from N.C. 581 west of Goldsboro to the Lenoir county line.

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

Work started Sept. 29 of last year on the $65.3 million first leg of the project being constructed by Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro. The completion date is November 2011. That section stretches from near Salem Church Road near Interstate 795 to just east of Wayne Memorial Drive. The bypass isn't expected to be completed until after 2035.

The other three phases are:

* Section A, from existing U.S. 70 west of N.C. 581 to Interstate 795, construction expected to cost $73 million.

* Section BB, from Wayne Memorial Drive and the new U.S. 70 Bypass to east of Parkstown Road, construction expected to cost $39 million.

* Section C, from east of Parkstown Road to U.S. 70 at Promise Lane Road near LaGrange, construction expected to cost $57 million.