Raleigh - The N.C. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that several key transportation projects aimed at improving regional mobility and better connecting western 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 western North Carolina include:
Completing the Shelby Bypass from west of N.C. 150 to U.S. 74 in Cleveland County, which will improve travel between Asheville and Charlotte.
Constructing U.S. 74, also known as Corridor K, from N.C. 143 north of Cheoah to N.C. 28 at Stecoah in Graham County (includes Appalachian Development Highway System funding), which will improve travel between Graham County and important transportation routes such as U.S. 74 and I-40.
Improving N.C. 63 (Leicester Highway) from U.S. 19/23 (Patton Avenue) to Newfound Road to improve access to the Asheville economic center.
Widening N.C 105 in Watauga County from east of Foscoe to the N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone, which will improve safety and mobility.
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 in the draft at the statewide level was released in May and is also available online. Projects included 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.