08/11/13 — Interstate highways focus of meeting

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Interstate highways focus of meeting

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 11, 2013 1:50 AM

Completing Interstate 795 from Goldsboro to Interstate 40 west of Faison and construction of a regional interstate loop are two projects that will have major economic impacts on eastern North Carolina, members of the Wayne County Commission's Transportation Committee said.

State Sens. Louis Pate of Mount Olive and Don Davis of Snow Hill, who attended the committee's Thursday meeting at Lane Tree Golf Club, offered their support for the projects.

It also was announced that the state Department of Transportation would completely fund an economic impact study of the I-795 corridor. That study is being done in conjunction with a similar study on a U.S. 70 Bypass from Raleigh to the ports at Morehead City.

The U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, of which Wayne County is a member, partnered with the county for the study that is expected to cost $235,971.

Adding I-795 will increase the cost by $128,561 for a total cost of $364,533. The supplement agreement to add I-795 was approved by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The county had been designated to receive up to $350,000 from the Federal Highway Administration that is allocated to the state DOT to pay for the study. That would have left a difference of about $64,000 that would have come from the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The announcement Thursday means the study will be completely funded through the DOT.

Also ongoing is a feasibility study on extending I-795 from Goldsboro to I-40.

"As we are all aware, interstates are vital for growth and economic activity and eastern North Carolina has been on the back burner when it came to interstates," said Commissioner Joe Daughtery, chairman of the committee.

Daughtery said that a number of counties, including Wayne, already have adopted a resolution supporting what has become known as "Quad East" and that he believes it was a good idea for the Wayne County Transportation Committee to adopt it as well.

"This concept as developed is to connect Wilson to Goldsboro to Kinston, then on into Greenville and back to Wilson," he said. "That would be I-795 going down to Goldsboro; (U.S.) 70 going into Kinston and then (N.C.) 11 going to Greenville then (U.S.) 264 back into Wilson."

The concept is to upgrade those highways to interstate standards, Daughtery said.

"This would be called the 'Quad East,'" he said. "You also have a connector into I-795 in Goldsboro down to I-40. So this overall concept would bring an interstate here in eastern North Carolina."

Daughtery said that the resolution supports the Department of Transportation's development and construction to interstate standards for the regional interstate system along those highways.

Pate asked Daughtery if there were any priorities established as to what would happen first.

No, Daughtery replied.

""We are going to leave that to NCDOT to establish a time table for that," he said. "The overall goal is to have the connection between those cities. As we all know, things have changed drastically in regards to highway improvements.

"Highway improvements now take place and have priority based on regional concepts or cooperative effort from communities and counties. It is no longer limited to just a particular county or city. You have basically got to have partners."

The "Quad East" concept is an example, he said.

Transportation Board member Gus Tulloss of Rocky Mount praised Pate and Davis for looking out for the DOT and the eastern part of the state.

"Wayne County has their act together on transportation," he said. "I represent six counties, and they all do a wonderful job, but Wayne County stays on top of their stuff."

Davis said he was "100 percent committed and on board" with the local projects.

A member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, Davis said he had spoken on several occasions with Transportation Secretary Tony Tata concerning Wayne County, including "Quad East" and all of the other changes taking place in the area.

"One thing he said, and this is serious, it is really impressive how the community here comes together for the greater good," Davis said.

And what transportation projects are all about is doing the greater good for the community, he noted.

Davis said he was impressed that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood had visited Wayne County.

"He was here because were are doing it right," Davis said.

Davis said that what is exciting is that new U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is from North Carolina.

He said that Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte, had sent his regards to him last week.

"I am just saying that having a cabinet member that knows us, I think that is a good deal," Davis said.

Pate said that transportation bills passed during the recent state legislative session seemed to have treated, "our area of the state pretty fairly."

"I-795 is one of the most important ventures that we have in eastern North Carolina," he said. "It is really going to make us an economic development area that I think will be just great for us. It will open up the port at Wilmington. It will open up the lanes of travel where goods can be hauled, coming in and going out and being distributed."

Pate said he had recently visited Charleston, S.C., and had seen firsthand the logistics and infrastructure in place because of the ports and highways.

"Folks, we are, to coin a phrase, we are really missing the boat if we don't pursue that very same thing. I-795 is a very important statement for us to make. That will really help us."