08/21/14 — County seeks U.S. 117 status change

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County seeks U.S. 117 status change

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 21, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners are worried that U.S. 117 between Goldsboro and Interstate 40 is not included in proposed federal legislation designating Interstate status to two other highways in the area.

Commissioners on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. G.K. Butterfield to add U.S. 117 as the future I-795 to the road bills they introduced in their respective chambers.

They said they hope others will lend support to their efforts.

In the resolution, commissioners call the designation critical to the transportation infrastructure and economic development of not only Wayne County, but all of eastern North Carolina.

It is particularly important for improving access to the state ports at Wilmington and Morehead City, they said.

Before leaving for recess, Mrs. Hagan and Butterfield introduced the Route to Opportunity and Development (ROAD) ACT of 2014 that would enable federal transportation improvements to sections of U.S. 17 and U.S. 64 to bring them up to Interstate status.

Local elected officials, civic and business leaders have been campaigning for years to upgrade U.S. 117 between Goldsboro and I-40 to Interstate status.

Currently, I-795 runs between Wilson and U.S. 70 in Goldsboro. When it was first built it was a new four-laned U.S. 117 before receiving the Interstate designation.

Two studies are under way on extending the Interstate south to I-40 in Sampson County. The first is looking at the feasibility of designing the highway and the second is examining the highway's economic impact.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery told his fellow commissioners he had been made aware of the legislation last week after reading newspaper articles.

"For some reason U.S. 117, the extension and expansion of (Interstate) 795 was not in that bill," he said. "This resolution is basically asking that they amend the bill and add designating the section of Highway 117 from Goldsboro south to its intersection with Interstate 40 as a future Interstate highway."

Daughtery said local supports of the designation had been waiting on the completion of the two studies before asking for the future Interstate status, but that "this bill got ahead of it."

The county wants the governor's involvement, and former county commissioner Steve Keen, who now works in the governor's administration, had asked that the resolution be sent to him so that he could put it on the governor's desk, Daughtery said.

Copies will be sent to Mrs. Hagan and Butterfield as well.

The resolution has be adopted by Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization. Approval is being sought from the Down East Rural Planning Organization and Wayne County Transportation Committee.

"We are asking for support from surrounding areas and municipalities as well," Daughtery said. "We are trying to move expeditiously on this because they are in recess and we want to have these resolutions on their desks when they go back into session after Labor Day."