07/31/13 — Study to eye U.S. 70 Bypass

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Study to eye U.S. 70 Bypass

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 31, 2013 1:46 PM

A study announced during a Friday meeting in Morehead City will assess the economic impact, both good and bad, of completing the U.S. 70 Bypass between Raleigh and the state ports facility at Morehead City.

It also will examine the potential economic impact of the proposed upgrading of U.S. 117 to Interstate 795 between Goldsboro and Interstate 40 just west of Faison.

According to officials with the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, the numerous stoplights and traffic slowdowns along existing U.S 70 are hurting eastern North Carolina's ability to attract new industries and are limiting the flow of freight to the Morehead City Ports facility.

However, retail businesses have benefited for many years from that same traffic flow, the officials said.

The study will evaluate positive and negative effects of both highway projects and look for ways to alleviate any negative ones, the officials said.

The state Department of Transportation has hired Cambridge Systematics, a national transportation and logistics consulting company, and Sanford Holshouser Economic Development Consulting, a leading economic development consulting group in the southeastern United States, to conduct the study.

The approximately $225,000 study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The U.S. 70 Bypass around Clayton opened in June 2008, and the first section of the 22-mile stretch around Goldsboro opened in December 2011.

When completed, the U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass will stretch from near N.C. 581 west of Goldsboro to Promise Land Road at the Lenoir County line. It is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2015.

A consultant has been hired by the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the East Carolina Regional Planning Organization to conduct a preliminary feasibility study on upgrading U.S. 117.

It is separate study from the one announced Friday.

Expected to be finished in early 2014, it will examine the cost, environmental impacts and what will be necessary to upgrade bridges, add shoulders and interchanges on U.S. 117.

Major changes would be required in the area north of the Wayne County Fairgrounds, while everything south would be mostly adding interchanges and upgrading bridges, said Wayne County Planning Director Connie Price, chairman of the MPO staff level Technical Communicating Committee.

The consultant will collect preliminary data, figure out the lane width, shoulder width and land use data that would determine the potential areas that would became an overpass or interchange.

That process will include meetings to help with data analysis.

That information will then be passed onto the DOT to be used with its feasibility study.

A feasibility study on the possible upgrade was done years ago, but changes in the region since then require that another be completed, Price said.

Once the DOT is done with the feasibility study, both the MPO and RPO will review it. The MPO and RPO would be asked to approve the study so that it can then be accepted by the DOT and put on a list of road projects that need to be funded, designed and constructed.

That overall process will take years, Price said.

-- Staff writer Josh Ellerbrock contributed to this article.