Raleigh - The N.C. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that several key transportation projects aimed at improving regional mobility and better connecting eastern North Carolina's communities will be included in the state's next draft 10-year transportation plan, which will be released in January 2017. The plan includes the years 2018 through 2027.
"A strong transportation network is the backbone of the state's economy," Governor Pat McCrory said. "We took the politics out of transportation planning to ensure roads and other important infrastructure are prioritized based on need. These projects demonstrate the process is working as intended to make smart decisions that keep North Carolina moving."
Projects for eastern North Carolina include:
Constructing the U.S. 70 Kinston Bypass from N.C. 148 to east of N.C. 58, part of the Future Interstate 42 corridor and an important connection to the Crystal Coast and Port of Morehead City
Widening U.S. 13/N.C. 11 from N.C. 11/561 near Ahoskie to U.S. 158/N.C. 45, which will improve safety and connect to recently widened sections near Winton in Hertford County
Widening N.C. 87 in Columbus County, which will improve access to the U.S. 74/76 corridor and support the agriculture industry
Upgrading U.S. 117 from north of Country Club Road to south of Genoa Road in Wayne County, improving the I-795 corridor
Improving the I-95/U.S. 701/N.C. 96 interchange and the I-95/U.S. 70 Business East interchange in Johnston County, facilitating a better connection between major regional routes
A complete list of projects can be found at NCDOT.gov/STI.
"These projects are helping to fulfill the Governor's 25-Year Vision for transportation in North Carolina by improving regional connections and enhancing freight movement," State Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said.
The projects are being paid for under the state's Strategic Transportation Investments law, which allows the department to use data and local input to fund transportation projects at three levels: statewide, regionally and locally (also referred to as being at the division level).
The list of projects being funded at the statewide level was released in May and is also available online. Projects funded at the division level are expected to be released in late fall, and after final schedule adjustments, the draft 10-year plan will be made available.
Under the Strategic Transportation Investments law, projects are evaluated based on a combination of data and local input. Statewide project scores are based entirely on data-driven criteria; regional project scores are based on 70 percent data and 30 percent local input, which is based on an established methodology; and division project scores are based on 50 percent data and 50 percent local input.
Projects that did not score high enough to be funded at the statewide level rolled over to the regional level to be considered for funding. Projects that did not make the list for regional-level funding can still be considered at the division level. This cascading aspect of the process helps ensure that local input plays an important role in prioritizing projects for funding.
In June and July, the department’s local transportation divisions and the state’s metropolitan and regional planning organizations held a public comment period to receive local input on area projects. Local input “points” were then assigned to each regional project by the NCDOT divisions and the planning organizations based on this feedback to determine the projects’ overall scores.
Now that the regional projects have been finalized, another public comment period will be held this fall, and local input points will be assigned to each of the division-level projects, including those that have cascaded down from the statewide and regional levels.
When all project scores are finalized at the statewide, regional and division levels, the top-scoring projects will be scheduled into NCDOT’s next 10-year plan based on available funding and other factors – such as the status of environmental studies – that affect when a project can be completed.
Once the draft plan is released, a public comment period will be held and then the final plan is expected to be adopted by the N.C. Board of Transportation in June 2017.
The department’s 10-year plan is updated every two years using this process. Projects scheduled into the first five years of the plan are considered committed and will not be reevaluated, but projects in the final five years of each 10-year plan will be prioritized again for inclusion in the next plan.