08/21/13 — City leery of funding highway study

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City leery of funding highway study

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on August 21, 2013 1:46 PM

The state is picking up the tab for an economic impact study for the proposed U.S. 70 Bypass and other highway projects, but Goldsboro City Council wants to make sure that the city has a voice on the commission formed to direct future highway developments.

The city decided to keep its money out of the proposed impact study for U.S. 117 because it no longer has a voice on the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission. The study will be completed by the state Department of Transportation for Wayne County on behalf of the commission.

The county had entered into an agreement with the department to complete the economic development analysis for the four-lane freeway bypass corridor from Raleigh to Morehead City and converting U.S. 117 to I-795 South to I-40.

The cost of the U.S. 117 study to the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization would have been $30,000, with the remainder of the $125,000 being paid by the DOT.

If paid through the city MPO, 80 percent of the $30,000 would be reimbursed with non-local dollars, City Manager Scott Stevens said.

The full amount would be paid from the city and then reimbursed through the MPO.

Councilman Chuck Allen questioned why the city should pay for a study for an organization that no longer included a city representative.

The city has not felt like it has had representation on the commission since Allen was not reappointed as one of Wayne County's four delegates on the commission, Allen said.

It was decided to table the item to give council members time to meet with the county commissioners.

A member of the Goldsboro Planning Commission was appointed by the county to the commission, but the council was not involved in the discussion to recommend its city representation, Allen said.

"(The city) tried to join and they didn't want that either and they want to let us, the MPO, pay for it?" he said.

After the council tabled the agreement, it was decided through discussions between the county and state that the DOT would bear the full cost of the U.S. 117 study, County Commissioner Joe Daughtery said.

"The MPO was not meeting right away, and we needed the funding," Daughtery said. "NCDOT picked up the whole bill, which is good they were able to because we need that study badly."

At a meeting last week, the commission voted to officially incorporate as well as make changes to the bylaws to allow municipalities to join and to increase the number of board representatives to five, said U.S. 70 Corridor Commission Director Durwood Stephenson.

This brings the five-county board to 25 members.

According to the new regulations, any municipality joining is entitled to one of the five board positions and should submit three applicants to their county's commissioners.

If five municipalities from one county joined, they would be entitled to all five positions, which would violate the other bylaw change setting up the lead directors as a commissioner from each of the participating five counties.

Stephenson said in that "almost impossible" situation the bylaws would need to be changed, but he added that he does not foresee that as a real possibility.

"We based this on the way things have been in the past and there is almost, well I would say a zero percent chance of that happening," Stephenson said.

Whether the city will join the commission is not clear, Stevens said.

"The cost to join the commission is $25,000 for a county for four representatives and $10,000 for a city for one member," Stevens said.

Another concern for Stevens is the county choosing from three names the city would put up for the board position.

"The question is finding three people who want to serve in that position," Stevens said. "They would need to be willing to travel up and down U.S. 70 for meetings."