07/10/09 — Residents question plans for roadway

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Residents question plans for roadway

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 10, 2009 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro Mayor Pro-tem Chuck Allen, right, makes a point during Thursday night's long-range transportation planning workshop. Most of the people in attendance were concerned about the proposed route for a new U.S. 117 South and how it would affect their property values. Allen is chairman of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization that sponsored the meeting.

Residents living along what has been identified as the preferred route for a new U.S. 117 South Thursday night renewed their displeasure over what they said was an initial lack of information some seven years ago when the proposed route was adopted.

Nor did it appear those feelings were completely assuaged when local transportation officials reminded them that not only is there no money for the project, but that it could be 30 or more years before the road is built -- or by that time another route could be selected.

So, people should get on with their lives and add expansions to their houses, consultant Mike Rutkowski of Kimley-Horn said.

The public's response was that the dotted line on the county map is still adversely affecting their property values.

"You have ruined my property values right now," said Mike Picus whose property lies within the proposed route.

Getting the information out that the road is 30 years away would make a lot of difference, another person said.

The comments came during the third and final public workshop sponsored by the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organiza-tion as it works to update its long-range transportation plan.

By next week, people will be able to log onto the Web sites for the MPO, the city of Goldsboro and the county to read about the meeting and its findings. The informal public review will be followed by a formal review by consultants from Kimley-Horn and a 30-day public review in August.

The results will be given to the MPO that is expected to hold a public hearing in September prior to adopting the plan that then goes to the Federal Highway Admin-istration.

Most of the 20 people in attendance raised their hands when Rutkowski asked how many had attended the last public workshop. About 100 persons attended that workshop just over a month ago.

Rutkowski made a brief presentation and explained how the workshop worked. Stations were set up dealing with land use, highways, pedestrians and bike trails, freight and rail and transit.

However, the vast majority of attention focused on U.S. 117.

Several of those in attendance complained that a poor job had been done informing the public about the route. Rutkowski said the maps and information had been available at different city and county offices. The audience members responded that they didn't spend a lot of time at the courthouse looking at records.

Rutkowski agreed that a better job could have been done and that was what is trying to be done now.

MPO member Dave Quick said the meetings seven years ago were advertised, but that the public had not attended.

"It was discussed in open forum and anybody in the whole county was welcome and invited," Quick said. "The study was published and a copy was at city hall, a copy in the county planning office, a copy online. There has been no effort to conceal or hide any of this. Those things were talked about for almost two years."

"How often do I go to the courthouse and look at records?" said one audience member.

They also questioned who had decided on the route.

When Rutkowski used "we," the audience wanted to know just who the "we" were. They also questioned whether the "we" were qualified to plan roads.

The "we," he said, was a collective group, the city, county, MPO and state.

He sought to reassure the audience that the alternative U.S. 117 routes would be included in the plan.

"We will put in the document that all lines will be looked at and that there will be several dozen of them including this one, the ones you guys put on there, the retrofitted (U.S. 117) one, how's that?" Rutkowski said.

"I think that the ideas that were shared at the last meeting were that the interest at looking at that adopted (route) line a little bit further," Rutkowski said in an interview. "We were asked at the meeting if we could identify an alternative."

As he did during the meeting, Rutkowski said people went into the field and looked at the alternative route. Like the approved route, it has some problems, including crossing wetlands, a historic Civil War battlefield, a cemetery and a hazardous waste site.

"There are no dedicated funds for the construction of the U.S. 117 Bypass today," Rutkowski said in the interview. "What we are advocating at this point is that people go on with their lives. It's going to be tough because they an adopted alignment on there and with no money to build the infrastructure, it is kind of a catch-22.

"On one hand that information should have been more revealed at all levels, including the city, county as well as real estate folks that are involved in transactions of land ownership. In lieu of that, we would advocate that if and when funding becomes available and there is a need to revisit the environmental document, they look at all reasonable and feasible alternatives."

Quick said he was pleased with the turnout.

"For many years, we would advertise and put it in the paper, have it on the radio and there was no hot burning issue," he said. "We'd have the staff here and the staff from the city and everybody involved and maybe get two or three or at the most a few people show up with a few issues they were concerned about."

Having the recent input makes the document much "more meaningful," he added.

"As much as anything there is the fact that people are aware of what is being done and the process how it is done whether they agree with it or not," Quick said.

Had the turnout been as good seven years there would be fewer questions today and the document being redone now would be a lot different, he said.