MPO to look at U.S. 70 growth
By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 29, 2010 1:46 PM
The state's decision to expedite construction of the U.S. 70 Bypass, while welcomed by local leaders, has brought with it a whole new set of issues -- not the least of which is ensuring that the highway is built.
On top of that are development and zoning issues that just months ago were years, if not decades in the future, and that now have suddenly become matters of immediate concern.
That was evident at the November meeting of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization when it decided to expand the scope of its plan that originally was to look just at the Wayne Memorial Drive interchange. Now, all of the interchanges will be examined at the same time.
"Our first goal is to keep the project on task to be sure we keep the timelines," said Chuck Allen, chairman of the MPO and Goldsboro mayor pro-tem. "With all of the (state) funding issues you know what could happen. So that is definitely our first priority -- to keep the bypass on schedule as to what they (state) have done now.
"The second issue that comes up because the bypass has been expedited is that we need to take these major interchanges such as Wayne Memorial, (U.S.) 13 and we need to figure out the zoning of them, the water, the sewer, the infrastructure. The planning of those will be a push for the city and the county."
The MPO will have some involvement, but it mainly will fall to city and county planning at the new interchanges, Allen said.
"What we don't want is a Highway 42," he said. "We want something that is planned and I think that if we put water and sewer out there that will be a huge catalyst in development.
"The ingress/egress is dangerous (on N.C. 42). It has a lot of access. It is just not very well planned, very well thought out. I'd like to see a little more planning done than that. Off Highway 42 what you have are multiple curb cuts. We can develop off of access roads and make the highway itself safe."
Allen was referring to the N.C. 42 and I-40 interchange in Johnston County. That area is crowded with shopping centers, restaurants, hotels and other commercial and retail businesses, the majority of which have direct access to the busy N.C. 42.
The next step will be for the city and county together to look at the location of water and sewer lines, as well as zoning, he said.
"What are we going to do with these interchanges?" Allen said. "We have maps of all of these interchanges and we know where the water is and we know where the sewer is.
"The first one we will do, I feel sure, is Wayne Memorial. It will be the first one (interchange) to be finished."
Allen said he thinks work will begin as early as next year on the Wayne Memorial Drive interchange trying to extend water and sewer and looking at zoning and working with the landowners.
"At 8 o'clock in the morning Wayne Memorial is always going to be a problem," he said. "You cannot fix that. It just has too much demand on it. What I think we need to do is where Wayne Memorial and New Hope (Road) intersect, we need to try to make that all five lanes going to the bypass so that we don't have the congestion and tie-ups from the bypass in.
"Right now, you have a two-lane road to five-lane road. The idea is we are trying to work with DOT to make it all five-lane all the way through.
"I think what will help the flow of traffic is when the computerization of the traffic signals comes on. That will help Wayne Memorial. The timing of the traffic signals... that guy will be able to sit in the communications center and he can see there is a backlog and he can control the lights. That will help things."
Most of the interchanges are within the city or at least its one-mile extra-territorial jurisdiction.
"My opinion is that the county and city will come to some type of agreement that everything past some point past that interchange will be the city," he said. "Now obviously if we extend water and sewer out there we are going to have to get it zoned and work with the landowners in order to see what is a compatible zone.
"I think the county is fine with that based on some preliminary conversations. They think the city should take the lead on that."
Allen said he believes that the city's and county's top areas for growth will be at these interchanges, especially at Wayne Memorial. He thinks that within the next year that the city will start looking at extending water and sewer on Wayne Memorial Drive.
Currently water and sewer extends as far as the Windsor Creek area.
Allen said he hopes grants and loans can be obtained for the work. It could also use the city's utility fund "which is pretty strong," he noted.
"The zoning is going to be contentious at best, but the fact is it has to be zoned," Allen said. "We will work with the landowners and try to come up with the best plan that works for everybody. But it has to have zoning around it. You can't have a chicken house next to a shopping center.
"It is going to be work, but it has to be done. I think what it does, I think we all agree it totally changes the use of that property in that area. It doesn't become farmland anymore. I think people will ultimately want to sell and to do that they will need water and sewer."
Looking at potential development also will be one of the projects the MPO will work on, he said. Also, as the bypass is developed, the MPO will go back and look at existing U.S. 70, he said.
A priority list of recommended safety improvements has been developed for existing U.S. 70.
It includes closing westbound access to the service road near the hotel site just east of the Pizza Inn on U.S. 70 West; installing new finding/directional signs and possibly a dedicated right turn prior to the intersection with William Street; and closing eastbound access to the service road east of William Street.
Having the new bypass completed earlier may mean those projects could be revisited, Allen said.
"Like maybe the William Street closures we have talked so much about," he said. "Maybe we decide because it is a local road we don't need to close those anymore. Historically, traffic does not ever get any less on a local road. It is just as heavily traveled. Our job, I think, as elected officials, is to make them as safe as possible."
Allen said he thinks U.S. 13 would be next in line behind Wayne Memorial Drive for improvements, followed by N.C. 581.
Already in place is a plan to add a second lane to southbound U.S. 13 (North Berkeley Boulevard) from New Hope Road. There are two lanes already northbound to New Hope Road.
Allen said he thinks the extra lane will help and that he sees the need to have five lanes all the way to the interchange. However, he also foresees more right-of-way issues because of the number of homes along the road and the fact that the interchange is further out.
The offset Central Heights and Royall Avenue intersections also add to problems on North Berkeley Boulevard, he said.
"It is a huge issue because it is a terrible intersection," he said.
Allen said he is hopeful that starting next year funding can be finished for the engineering plans or realigning Central Heights Road with Royall Avenue. It is an $8 million project and Allen said he expect DOT to tell the city it lacks the money to do it at present.
"We have got to finish the design, environmental then find some way to fund it," he said.
And just because U.S. 70 is closer to becoming a reality it does not put the MPO out of work, he said.
"The MPO will still work on Berkeley Boulevard on the Royall Avenue and Central Heights line-up," he said. "There are still plenty of things out there to the degree of bicycle paths, sidewalks. There is plenty to do we (MPO) are not out of work yet.
"It (bypass) is blessing," he said. "I didn't think I would see the bypass in my lifetime and now we are talking about seeing it in 2015. Before it wasn't even funded, but it is huge. I think it shows two things -- I think it shows what collaboration and working other can do and I think it shows DOT recognizes the significance of it."