Raleigh - The following is featured in a special edition of the department's weekly newscast, N.C. Transportation Now.
When Governor McCrory took office in January 2013, he set three clear priorities for transportation:
Be more efficient and strategic in how we fund transportation projects;
Develop a 25-year plan that leverages the state's infrastructure to promote economic growth; and
Improve customer service at the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Within the first six months of taking office, Governor McCrory gained overwhelming bipartisan support for a new transportation funding formula, known as the Strategic Transportation Investments law, that takes the politics out of roadbuilding by funding projects based on data-driven scoring and local input. The governor signed the legislation into law on June 26, 2013.
The new funding formula was first used to develop the 2016- 2025 State Transportation Improvement Program, the department's 10-year transportation plan. Approved in 2015, the plan demonstrated that the new formula was working as intended and even exceeded expectations -funding nearly three times as many highway projects and supporting almost twice as many jobs as the old formula.
Recognizing that transportation plays a critical role in economic development and quality of life, the governor released his 25-Year Vision for transportation in North Carolina in September 2015. The vision provides a roadmap for long-term transportation investments that better connect our citizens to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation.
From Manteo to Murphy, projects across the state demonstrate the success of the governor's vision to better connect North Carolinians and support job creation. CSX's Carolina Connector, a major intermodal rail terminal, is one such example. The project's site selection in Edgecombe County was due in part to the allocation of $100 million in state funding for rail improvements at the site through the new transportation funding formula. Announced in July 2016, this critical infrastructure project will bring jobs and economic opportunity to eastern North Carolina and position the state as a leader in enhanced freight movement.
The governor also increased funding to modernize the state's ports at Wilmington and Morehead City. This allowed the Port of Wilmington to make upgrades and welcome the first of many post-Panamax vessels.
Another significant achievement made by Governor McCrory and NCDOT was the groundbreaking of the new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge in the Outer Banks after a settlement agreement resolved decades of legal and other delay. The new bridge is scheduled to open to traffic in November 2018.
In keeping with the governor's goal of improving customer service, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) launched the Driving Change' initiative to reduce wait times and improve customer experiences at DMV offices. In response to the division's first-ever customer service survey, DMV introduced extended hours at its busiest driver license offices around the state, including weekend hours in some locations. Now, 85 percent of North Carolinians live within a 30-mile radius of an office that offers extended hours. In the fall of 2015, DMV debuted online driver license renewal and to-date more than 600,000 North Carolinians have avoided the line by renewing their license online.
Other DMV improvements made in the past few years include driver license office upgrades to enhance efficiency and improve customer experience, including the acceptance of debit and credit cards. DMV also implemented mandatory customer service training for all driver license examiners. In addition, the division began deploying portable state-of-the-art mobile offices across the state, replacing the aging and less economical RV-style mobile units. The new units allow DMV to services more residents in rural areas.
While Governor McCrory’s vision and leadership have enhanced how we prioritize and fund projects, none of these accomplishments could have been possible without NCDOT’s talented and dedicated team of employees. Their unwavering commitment to providing safe, seamless modes of transportation is best highlighted when service is disrupted. Whether it is because of a hurricane, snow and ice, or other natural disaster, our team rises to the challenge to clear debris, make repairs and help citizens recover.
North Carolina has endured a number of such disasters over the past four years. Most recently, Hurricane Matthew brought unprecedented flooding and damage to parts of central and eastern North Carolina, washing out roads and bridges, and devastating communities. Despite damage to some of their own homes, NCDOT crews braved the storm and its effects to keep our citizens safe, sometimes putting their own lives at risk to save stranded motorists. While complex repairs will take longer, most of the damaged roads were quickly repaired and reopened to traffic.
Under Governor McCrory, we have taken the politics out of transportation planning, improved customer service at the DMV, and celebrated long-awaited milestones that move North Carolina forward. The investments made over the past four years will provide the foundation for continued economic development and better quality of life for all North Carolinians.