05/18/11 — MPO worrried about bill on U.S. 70 medians

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MPO worrried about bill on U.S. 70 medians

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 18, 2011 1:46 PM

Decisions involving highway safety and design are best left to local government and transportation organizations that are more involved and knowledgeable about local needs than state lawmakers, members of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization said at a meeting last week.

Members were expressing their dissatisfaction with House Bill 5612, co-sponsored by Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir County, that would bar the state Department of Transportation from placing medians on certain roads, including U.S. 70 in Lenoir County.

The bill reads that the state "shall not erect, construct, build, or otherwise place a median, barrier, or other construct on that portion of U.S. Highway 70 between a point located 1,050 feet west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 258 South and the intersection of N.C. Highway 58 South that in any way limits, reduces, blocks, or by any other means reduces the current level of ingress and egress to businesses located on that portion of U.S. Highway 70 which are currently accessible from U.S. Highway 70."

The same prohibition applies to certain streets in Asheboro and Rocky Mount.

While limited to those areas, MPO members were fearful that the bill has statewide implications and that it is the result of a powerful few pressuring legislators.

The DOT is better suited to making those decisions, said Goldsboro Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck Allen, who is also chairman of the MPO's Technical Advisor Committee.

"They (lawmakers) certainly may have the power, but I think these median projects or whatever that have gone through a lot of (study). I know that we closed Beston Road and we took a whole lot of heat for it and that is this type of project. But at the end of the day we knew that it was the right thing to do. It has been proven it was the right thing to do.

"To me that is kind of like the legislators meddling a little bit. They need to be up there facing the global issues. It concerns me. I think they are taking the DOT power away and I think they are taking the local power away. We should know best what we need here and not Raleigh."

Allen asked DOT Board member Gus Tulloss if resolutions from the City Council and county commissioners would help.

"I think right now it is in committee and we are sort of waiting to see what happens," Tulloss said. "There have been a lot of editorial across the state saying what you are saying that they felt the counties and municipalities were better equipped to handle it.

"I think right now hold off, but I will check on that."

In other business Thursday, the MPO approved an amended transportation project needs list of 14 projects, the first four of which would connect to the new U.S. 70 Bypass.

The priority list was rearranged because of the state's decision to speed up construction of the bypass. Originally not scheduled for completion until sometime after 2030, the bypass now could open as early as 2016.

The priority list, as well as the MPO's $643,320 Planning Works Program, was recommended for approval by the Technical Coordinating Committee (staff). Both were approved by the Technical Advisory Committee (the decision-making arm of the MPO).

County Planning Director Connie Price was re-elected TCC chairman and Goldsboro Planning Services Director Randy Guthrie as vice-chairman. Allen was re-elected as TAC chairman. Walnut Creek Mayor Darryl Horne was elected to the vacant vice-chairman slot.

The priorities are, in descending order:

* Wayne Memorial Drive: Upgrade from New Hope Road to new U.S. 70 Bypass

* Berkeley Boulevard: Widening from New Hope Road to Hood Swamp Road

* U.S. Highway 117 (North William Street): Upgrade from U.S. 117-U.S. 70 Bypass to Belfast Road

* U.S. Highway 13 North: Upgrade from Hood Swamp Road to Greene County line (new project)

* Central Heights Road: Realignment at Berkeley Boulevard and Royall Avenue

* New Hope Road: Widen from Central Heights Road to Miller's Chapel Road

* Interchange at U.S. 70 East and Oak Forest Road (new project)

* New interchange at U.S. 70 East and N.C. 111 (new project)

* Ash Street (U.S. 70 Business): Upgrade from Berkeley Boulevard easterly to existing U.S. 70 Bypass

* U.S. Highway 117 (N.C. 55 to U. S. 117): New relocation south of U.S. 70 including interchange at N.C. 581 (Ash Street)

* Interchange at U.S. 117 South and O'Berry Road (new project, right of way already in place)

* Mark Edwards Road: Widen from New Hope Road to proposed U.S. 70 Bypass (new project)

* Cuyler Best Road realignment: New location from Cuyler Best Road to New Hope Road (new project)

* New Hope Road: Widen from Patetown Road to Wayne Memorial Drive (new project).

The Planning Works Program budget includes $441,420 for six different special studies:

* Turning Movement Count IIventory (the city's new computerized traffic signal system), $100,000

* Long-Range Transportation Update, $100,000

* Update of the Interstate 795 South Corridor to I-40 (including interchange at N.C. 581) $75,000

* Wayne Memorial Drive Study from Royall Avenue northerly to new access to U.S. 70 Bypass (driveway closures/traffic flow) $50,000

* Goldsboro-Wayne Municipal Airport general aviation terminal area master planning, programing and conceptual design, $70,000

* Public Transit Activities, $31,620.