The NC Department of Transportation announced this week 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.
In Johnston County, several important projects are included. Among them are a two-part project to widen Highway 42 from NC 50 to US 70 in Clayton. The first part is the widening of Highway 42 from NC 50 to the US 70 Clayton Bypass in 2021 at a projected cost of $37.7 million. The second part would widening Highway 42 from the US 70 Clayton Bypass to US 70 Business in Clayton, also in fiscal year 2021, at a projected cost of $27.4 million.
Currently, NC 42 is an undivided two lane roadway. The project would make NC 42 a four lane divided highway with a raised median and paved shoulders and sidewalks in some locations.
Improvements are also planned on US 70 Business in Selma from US 301 to I-95 including a four-lane divided cross section to allow better access control. The project is scheduled in 2025 at a cost of $10.5 million.
Upgrades to the interchange of I-95 at US Highway 70 Business East in Smithfield to a diamond interchange and replacement and widening of the US 70 bridge will cost approximately $14.3 million. The work is tentatively set for 2026.
An estimated $14.2 million in improvements are planned for US 301 from Ricks Road in Selma south to Booker Dairy Road in Smithfield. The NC DOT says US 301 in currently nearing capacity. The work would take place in fiscal year 2025.
$3.5 million is the projected cost of a NC DOT project to improve the intersection of Interstate 95 at the US 701 / NC 96 interchange in Four Oaks at Exit 90. The DOT is proposing construction a diamond one loop interchange allowing for future widening of I-95 and to bring the interchange to current highway standards. The project is set for “after fiscal year 2027.”
And citywide traffic signal improvements in Clayton are projected to cost $2.1 million. The tentative date for the work is the year 2025.
“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).
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 NC DOT 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 NC DOT’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.