08/12/11 — Road plans to take regional view

View Archive

Road plans to take regional view

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 12, 2011 1:46 PM

The time when a county could pose a dozen highway projects and expect to get them funded is gone, members of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization said at the meeting Thursday.

As counties scramble for their share of shrinking highway money, regional projects appear to be the best way to ensure that eastern North Carolina continues to get it share of road-building money and does not lose out to the larger urban areas of the state, members said.

Regionalization is not a new idea said MPO member and Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best, who along with MPO Chairman and Goldsboro Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck Allen and County Manager Lee Smith, serve on the Highway 70 Commission that includes counties from Johnston to Carteret.

"Regionalization is what it's about," Best said. "There is not as much money as there used to be. There is not going to be as much money in the future as it is now. We have got to determine which way to go. Our major (highway) corridors will need to be regional. If you think it is just Goldsboro or just Wayne County or just Lenoir County, you lose."

Allen agreed.

"He have changed our focus," he said. "Obviously, we are still about Highway 70 and getting 70 built from Morehead, but the one thing we have learned in eastern North Carolina is that we are going to have to band together more than we ever have if we are going to have anything in eastern North Carolina. The legislators are all going urban.

"The money is going to go west, particularly if they change the law for the equity formula. Mayors of Goldsboro, Greenville, Jacksonville and Wilmington who are fighting the equity formula because they know the east is going to suffer if they change the formulas, but the Census tells you that everybody is going urban."

Allen said much time had been spent over the past several months making connections with other leaders across eastern North Carolina. Recently, Wayne's delegation had a chance to communicate with Pitt County's leaders.

"We told them the importance of all us, that all of us have to come together because if we all put 15 projects out there, none of them are ever going to get built," Allen said. "We need to come together as a region and pick the five big highways we want to give to commerce, to safety and the places they need to go."

Every MPO has 1,300 points to assign to highway projects. Every RPO has 1,300 points, as does the state Department of Transportation highway division engineers and the DOT office in Raleigh, Allen said. However, the state's points carry more weight, he said.

No project can get more than 100 points. In effect, the county could have 13 projects, all with 100 points each, he said.

"They (projects) can be in Wayne County," he said. "They can be in Duplin County. They can be in Greene. It doesn't matter where they are. You can share points. What we have been doing is meeting with a lot of these RPOs and saying, 'Let's all get together collectively,' and it is coming together. That is why we met with Greenville.

"We told Greenville, 'You getting people to your hospital is important. In Goldsboro, we have a choice. We can go to Raleigh or we can come to Greenville, so it is important for you to partner with us because you need our patients and we need your hospital and we all need to protect eastern North Carolina.' I think what we will see when points come, some people will give us points and I think we will give them points."

Jennifer Collins, senior planner for the city of Goldsboro, said that any sharing of points would require a written agreement.

County Commissioner Steve Keen asked if there was any money available over the next 20 years because of the costly Goldsboro U.S. 70 Bypass now under construction.

Allen said the Goldsboro and Havelock bypasses are "fine." The Kinston bypass hasn't been funded yet, he said, but will be the next one that the state tackles.

"That money (for Goldsboro) is committed," Allen said.

"I was thinking going regional," Keen said. "I know we are working 70, but we still have the (Interstate) 795 extension we are trying to get regionally extended down south."

Keen asked how that road could be extended in the future and how that related to points.

"We will have to look at all of the projects," Best said. "The truth of the matter about 795 is can we get permits to go across all of those wetlands? We don't know. It has to be on our radar and on our list. We have to make sure it is a regional road and not just a Wayne County road."