The timeline is a farce and NCDOT knows it!
1. There is no Record of Decision. No R.O.D., no bridge.
2. They are trying to fund 60% of the cost with toll revenue bonds and without the “gap” funding that was removed from statute, $28 million/year for 30-40 years; no private equity- the PPP was canceled last December; and no Federal T.I.F.I.A. loan all of which were needed to keep the tolls as $26 each way during peak travel times, the tolls will be vastly higher and will probably be cost prohibitive.
3. A Financial feasibility study still needs to be done to determine if the project is viable. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority annual report indicates that study won’t be complete until 2017 sometime, so the project has not been determined to be financially feasible.
4. A supplemental EIS needs to be done as the environmental documents are too old and inadequate.
5. There is no accounting for lawsuit delays which add at least 1.5 years+ to timeline.
So Governor McCrory, whose signature Strategic Transportation Investments law to remove politics from transportation decision making, has reversed course and is now touting the poster child of politically polluted transportation projects – the very reason for his S.T.I. law in the first place.
There are many concerned citizens and vacationers that support the SELC in their efforts against Mid-Currituck Bridge, an unnecessary, extremely expensive, and environmentally damaging project.
The cost of the project has ranged from $750 million in a 2010 Letter of Interest for a federal T.I.F.I.A. loan to a “normalized cost” of $410 million for scoring purposes only during the P3.0 process. As recently as November 2014 the federally approved STIP cited a cost of $621 million. One month later the new draft STIP listed the cost at $475 million, $65 million more than the cost used for scoring. Now the NCDOT claims the project cost is $435 million. The NCDOT has not explained the drastic $200 million drop in the price tag. The Public Private Partnership has been cancelled; the annual $28 million per year “gap” funding has been removed from state statute, so the tolls would be much higher than the $26 toll each way.
Bridge supporters also claim the bridge is needed for hurricane evacuation. According to the FEIS, adding an additional outbound lane on US158 or using the center turn lane for hurricane evacuation would be more effective. It is up to the county to call for an evacuation, not the state nor the feds. Hurricane tracking today gives days, not hours of advanced warning of impending landfall so the bridge is not “needed” for that purpose. Just 4 years ago, hurricane Irene slammed this area a week before Labor Day, with a 7 foot storm surge hitting Duck, everyone was evacuated safely.
SEASONAL TRAFFIC ON NC12
To alleviate the heavy traffic experienced on NC12 north of US158 during the tourist season, the least expensive and environmentally damaging alternative that would provide the most relief would be to widen the existing road, the ER2 alternative that was part of the FEIS, the alternative that the bridge supporters oppose. If you don’t add sufficient capacity to NC12 by adding additional lanes, the traffic will not improve since once the vacationers arrive, as they travel NC12 throughout the week. The bridge would not affect any of that traffic but would add to the congestion due to the increase of day trippers from Virginia and surrounding areas. A major known problem is Duck’s 60 foot right of way with development close to the road. The standard right of way is 80 feet. As we all know, Duck’s speed limit is 25 with single lane traffic in each direction. Fix the problem where the problem lies at a much lower cost to the tax payers and the environment.
We live and earn our living here because of our natural environment. Fishing, hunting and recreational activities bring vacationers that drive our economy. The bridge project will damage the Currituck Sound from polluted bridge runoff among a host of other issues, increase pressure on the 4 wheel drive area with increased traffic on the northern beaches, and lead to the wildly popular Corolla wild horses being penned up like they are in Ocracoke for their own safety.
Our local politicians have heavily lobbied to tell you that the bridge is “needed” for economic development of the Currituck OBX. That is the claim that was used in the 1980’s when the bridge was first discussed. They claimed then, as they are now, that the Currituck OBX cannot be developed without the bridge. Today, Corolla is more than 70% built out so, that “need” along with the others falls flat.
“Having that shield does make a difference.”
By William F. West
The leader of a regional economic development group said that a freeway via Elizabeth City is needed to help boost commerce between the Raleigh-Durham area and Virginia’s Hampton Roads area.
“It’s about time that northeastern North Carolina has an interstate,” NCEast Alliance President John Chaffee said at the recent quarterly meeting of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Committee of 100.
Chaffee told the group not to get tied up about the specifics of where the freeway would be built, but to remember the big picture about businesses and industries wanting to locate near an interstate.
“There’s a big gaping hole in the northeast,” he said of the lack of an interstate. “And this is an effort to be able to rectify that.”
“Having that shield does make a difference,” he said of the red, white and blue sign being a key in recruiting business and industrial prospects.
U.S. 64 resembles a freeway east from Raleigh and is co-signed as Future Interstate 495 to Rocky Mount.
They also want future interstate signs put up on U.S. 17 from Williamston into Hampton Roads. While that segment of U.S. 17 is mostly four lanes, motorists encounter traffic signals in Williamston, at part of Windsor, at Midway, in Hertford, at Winfall and at Morgans Corner.
N.C. Division 1 Chief Engineer Jerry Jennings said that the cost on North Carolina’s side of the border would be approximately $1 billion to transform both routes into an interstate.
Chaffee spoke to the Committee of 100 on Wednesday. He gave an outline about NCEast, which was based in Kinston but which is now based in Greenville and which now represents 26 counties.
NCEast had been one of a group of state-supported private and public economic development partnerships until state lawmakers decided to defund them, leaving them with having to find new sources of funding.
The former North Carolina’s Northeast Alliance, which had long been a partnership based at Edenton and whose service area included the Albemarle, decided to merge with NCEast at the start of this year. Chaffee brought former Northeast President Vann Rogerson aboard with NCEast as a senior vice president and also retained two of four former Northeast staffers.
The Committee of 100 serves as an advisory group to the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Committee.
Chaffee said that NCEast was originally similar to the Committee of 100, but that NCEast’s activities were ramped up through the years to be a primary economic development organization and perform a variety of tasks. They include marketing and public relations, along with identifying economic development clusters to help attract business and industrial prospects.
Chaffee said that NCEast’s role in marketing and public relations involves promoting business and industrial development on a regional scale to better attract nationwide publicity to benefit eastern North Carolina.
“What we want to do is be a collective voice,” he said.
Chaffee said that, generally, local economic developers want him and NCEast to go out and identify companies wanting to invest approximately $20 million in a new manufacturing plant that employs approximately 100 people.
Chaffee said that he and the NCEast’s team’s strategy is to stay ahead of consultants hired by companies seeking a narrow list of finalists for business or industrial sites. He said that he and the NCEast team instead goes to meet prospects at specialty shows and also seeks out small-to-medium sized businesses who don’t pay experts and who themselves want a business or industrial site that meets their needs.
A key tool to helping prospects fit those needs is putting economic development clusters on an Internet-powered graphic or map. That way, one can scan the region and see what kind of companies, as well as what kinds of federal agencies and departments, are presently in northeastern North Carolina.
Using the cluster method, Chaffee showed the Committee of 100 an illustration of the huge military and homeland security presence, which includes Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City. More than 80,400 are employed by the military or homeland security in the region.
“It’s a big driver of the economy of eastern North Carolina,” Chaffee said.
Chaffee also showed the impact of aerospace, which can include a crossover with defense. There are more than 11,800 jobs in aerospace and defense products in the region.
“It’s all about keeping pilots in the air and making sure their aircraft is ready to go when they are,” Chaffee said.
With a cluster snapshot now visible, Chaffee said that NCEast decided to focus on defense and aerospace, along with agriculture that adds value to products. He also said that NCEast decided to include a focus on the life sciences industry, which involves microorganisms, animals, people and plants.
Chaffee said life sciences suppliers employ anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 in areas just east of Raleigh and in the Greenville, Rocky Mount and Wilson areas. At the same time, he emphasized the supply chain stretches down into Carteret County.
Using the cluster method, Chaffee said he and the NCEast team can then go out and tell prospects which business or service in the northeastern part of the state resembles theirs. He also said he and the NCEast team can approach or contact prospects and tell them about gaps in the supply chains of a particular business or service, which means there’ll be potential customers for them in the region.
“We don’t want people simply to think that eastern North Carolina is the place that you drive through and see beautiful fields of tobacco and soybeans and corn on your way to the beach,” he said. “There are other things that take place here.”
Local leaders need to implement and advocate for improvements to the existing roads as outlined in the FEIS for the Mid-Currituck Bridge. Known as the ER2 alternative to building a bridge. ADD PAVEMENT TO NC12, Southern Shores through Duck and build the flyover interchange at the US158/NC12 intersection.
Take a look at the cost used in August 2012 It is $611,000,000. It does NOT resemble the cost used ONLY to score the project in the new STI formula of $410,820,000
FY 2013 TIFIA Letters of Interest
TO: NCDOT Strategic Transportation Investments Decision Makers
I would like to thank you and the legislature for implementing the new P3.0 data driven process for transportation funding in our great state. This new process of using data removes political influences on projects and lets them stand on their own merit.
I am a vocal critic of the Mid-Currituck Bridge project R-2576 and was very interested to see where that project landed in the P3.0 scoring process. I would finally be able to see how it truly scored against other projects vying for dwindling resources without outside interference. This project has been fraught will “honest mistakes” from Governor Perdue’s office in 2012 among other issues of political favoritism and manipulation.
I noticed immediately when checking the financials used in scoring this project for the new P3.0, found here,
that the Total Cost for the project, Construction + ROW + Utilities is listed as $410,820,000, NOT The current July 2014 STIP Total Cost of $639,512,000, which is calculated in the same manner, Construction + Utilities + R.O.W. = Total Cost. See current S.T.I.P. here:
“Other Funds” should NOT be used to lower the Construction Cost, only the Total Cost to calculate the Cost to NCDOT. So it is obvious that someone entering the data for this project, subtracted $237,516,000, the amount of “other available funding”, from the Construction Cost, and then subtracted, “Other Funds” AGAIN, from the artificially lowered project “Total Cost”, to obtain the exceptionally low “Cost to NCDOT”, which is used in calculating the Cost/Benefit Analysis for the project. These “mistakes” lower the Total Cost and the Cost to NCDOT by $237,516,000, which artificially inflates the score for the project. These “mistakes” also keep the Cost to NCDOT lower than the $200,000,000 threshold for a project before it may be subject to a “Corridor Cap”.
Unfortunately it looks like the folks that favor the bridge have tried to pull a fast one again on this polluted project. I hope you are able to get to the bottom of this after all of the hard work that everyone has done to insure that the data is correct and reliable.
I would have thought that this project, that most see as the “poster child” for the reasons for the new P3.0 is being implemented, would absolutely be true and accurate.
By JON HAWLEY
The Daily Advance Staff Writer
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Roadwork in northeastern North Carolina has been on a bumpy and uncertain path since state officials implemented new, urban-focused criteria for new road projects.
Turns out, it could get worse, thanks to the federal Highway Trust Fund driving toward a “fiscal cliff” courtesy of U.S. Congressional gridlock. The fund pumps more than $35 billion a year into road projects nationwide, including 48.3 percent, or $1.14 billion, of road repair funding in North Carolina.
The federal HTF is projected to run out of money in late August or early September, something the Obama administration says would delay 112,000 road projects and cost 700,000 construction jobs next year. Dwindling gas tax revenue means the fund needs some $9 billion more to avoid going bankrupt this year.
This new fiscal cliff, like previous ones, is looming because lawmakers haven’t settled on how to shore up the HTF, including through reauthorizing a six-year surface transportation bill before the current one expires on Sept. 30.
The fund running out of money would impact 108 projects in North Carolina and cost more than 20,000 jobs, according to Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, a national nonprofit advocating better funding for US roads and bridges.
How these dire predictions filter down to northeastern North Carolina isn’t clear, however, according to NC Department of Transportation Engineer Jerry Jennings. He represents NCDOT Division 1, covering 14 counties including Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck. The state’s new “Strategic Mobility Formula” already has future road projects in the area in flux, he said.
To start, there’s a glass-half-full way to look at the latest HTF shortfalls: it’s possible DOT wasn’t going to fund local projects in the first place.
Under DOT’s new formula, 40 percent of DOT roadwork funds are supposed to go to projects of statewide importance, along with 30 percent each for projects of regional and divisional importance. DOT is still finalizing scores for every project, including factoring in public feedback like that collected in Edenton on Wednesday.
How exactly federal funds will be distributed to DOT’s state, regional and divisional pots of money isn’t clear yet, he said.
They won’t get even shares, he explained, because federal HTF monies must be used on Interstates, U.S. highways and, generally, routes that support them.
That means federal funds will likely be concentrated in statewide projects, he said. That’s a category Division One fared poorly in, based on DOT’s preliminary transportation improvement plan. The highest-scoring statewide project in Division One only got 33.83 out of 100 points; that’s widening U.S. 158 in Dare County from U.S. 64-N.C. 12 to the Currituck Sound Bridge, an estimated $85.4 million project.
Fortunately, Jennings added, local projects under construction won’t be affected if the HTF runs out of money. Money is already set aside to finish the Elizabeth Street-Camden Causeway reconstruction and the replacement of Knobbs Creek Bridge in Elizabeth City, he said. The same is true of widening U.S. 158 in Camden, he added.
Despite all the uncertainties right now in state-federal road funding, Jennings said it’s clear that the HTF going bankrupt — and taking almost half the DOT’s road money with it — would make competition for road funding much more intense.
Only the highest scoring projects would receive funding, and the only guaranteed money Division One receives under the road formula comes at the division level.
Each division must receive one-fourteenth of the 30 percent allocated to division needs, he said. On the regional level, Division One’s projects would have to beat Division Four’s to receive funding. Division Four includes Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson counties.
In Washington, lawmakers are debating numerous ways to shore up the HTF whose current gas tax of 18.4 cents is increasingly unable to pay for the nation’s growing “infrastructure crisis,” in the words of U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The Congressional Budget Office in April estimated the HTF needed an extra $100 billion beyond what the gas tax generates to cover highway costs for the six-year transportation bill.
A direct though likely unpopular solution would be to raise the gas tax. Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., are proposing to raise the tax 12 cents a gallon over two years and then index it to inflation. Published reports say the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AAA are among groups supporting the idea.
Northeastern NC’s Congress members offered mixed reactions to that idea this week. Through spokespersons, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan opposed the move, while her Republican counterpart Sen. Richard Burr declined to support or oppose the idea. The spokeswoman said only that Burr hoped to support a “bipartisan solution” to the issue.
Also through a spokeswoman, Butterfield didn’t directly endorse increasing the gas tax. But Butterfield called for Congress to find a long-term solution to highway funding that eluded it in 1993, when the gas tax was last increased. Rep. Walter Jones, R-Farmsville, could not be reached for comment.
By Reggie Ponder
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
EDENTON — Area officials continued to express frustration this week with a new state road-funding formula they say favors urban projects over rural ones.
Elizabeth City Public Works Director Paul Fredette and Edenton Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton were among the officials who attended a state Department of Transportation meeting held in Edenton Wednesday to receive public input on DOT’s transportation improvement plan for Division One.
The road-building formula, known as the Strategic Mobility Formula, was established as part of the 2013 Strategic Transportation Investments Act.
The new formula assigns points to thousands of proposed road-building projects across the state, and DOT is currently accepting public input on those projects. The feedback will then be factored in with the points already assigned to each project before DOT develops a new TIP in June of next year.
Everyone at Wednesday’s meeting in Edenton acknowledged that the new system generally favors projects in higher-population areas, which tends to make less money available for projects in rural areas such as the Albemarle.
But DOT officials explained that projects also are able to score points for regional impact and for the importance placed on them by DOT’s division offices.
Division One Engineer Jerry Jennings said state highway funds have dwindled because the greater fuel efficiency of newer cars has meant lower gasoline tax revenues. While the improved fuel efficiency is obviously a good thing, it does have a negative side effect because it reduces funding available for highway projects in the state.
Jennings explained that North Carolina’s highway funding comes entirely from three user-based sources: taxes on gasoline, taxes on automobile sales, and Division of Motor Vehicles fees.
Knighton said she was especially interested in the prospects for bicycle paths, which have been a high priority for town officials in Edenton in recent years.
Knighton said a proposed bicycle-pedestrian path to the Chowan River fishing pier, for example, is a great project. But it’s hard to get the project funded, she said.
“This whole system is just another example of how rural North Carolina just can’t compete for infrastructure,” Knighton said. “Everything is going to the urban areas. It’s just very frustrating, but we’re going to keep pushing and keep trying and keep fighting.”
According to the most recent TIP, the multi-use bicycle and pedestrian path from Twiddy Avenue to the Chowan River fishing pier has an estimated cost of $400,000. It scores zero points on statewide mobility and regional impact, and 5.41 out of 50 on division needs.
Fredette described the statewide impact of the current funding formula as a bizarre permutation of the “Field of Dreams” mantra, “If you build it, they will come.”
Since the money follows population under the current scheme, those areas with the highest populations will get the most road construction, Fredette noted. But since if you build highways, people will come, then those areas with the most highway construction will see a growth in population, he said.
For that reason, according to Fredette, the whole system becomes a self-perpetuating cycle in which money, road construction and population become more and more centralized in a few urbanized areas of the state.
When Fredette ran that idea past Jennings, the Division transportation chief acknowledged the basic logic of Fredette’s premise. However, he noted that everyone in the state Division of Highways — including those, like him, working in rural and less-populous areas of the state — acknowledges that there are problems with congestion in the state’s urban areas.
That urban congestion clearly needs to be addressed, Jennings said. But because of a shrinking pot of state highway needs, building roads in rural areas tends to take a backseat to the urban projects under the current arrangement, he explained.
The following is a partial list of area projects in the state Department of Transportation’s current transportation improvement plan, or TIP. The list contains each project, its cost and its ranking scores on several measurements under the state’s new Strategic Mobility Formula:
• Widening the 15.57-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 158 from Sunbury in Gates County to Morgan’s Corner in Pasquotank is estimated to cost $116.9 million. The project scores 10.17 out of 100 on statewide mobility; 9.85 out of 70 on regional impact; and 6.56 out of 50 on division needs.
• Upgrading the 6.82-mile stretch of N.C. Highway 343 in Camden County from U.S. 158 to Shiloh scores 14.28 out of 70 on regional impact and 11.19 out of 50 on regional needs. It scores zero on statewide mobility. The project cost is listed at $17.9 million.
• Widening the 10.28-mile stretch of U.S. 158 from N.C. Highway 34 just east of Belcross in Camden to N.C. Highway 168 in Currituck County has a price tag of $124.5 million. The project scores 12.92 out of 100 on statewide mobility; 15.32 out of 70 on regional impact; and 11.88 out of 50 on division needs.
• Upgrading the 18.32-mile stretch of N.C. 168 in Currituck County from the Virginia line to N.C. 158 is estimated at $122.6 million. The statewide mobility score is 9.26 out of 100; regional impact is 10.46 out of 70; and division needs is 7.81 out of 50.
• Upgrading the 19.23-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 17 from North Broad Street in Chowan County to Okisko Road in Pasquotank to freeway/expressway standards is estimated at $362.3 million. The project scores 12.23 out of 100 on statewide mobility; 9.98 out of 70 on regional impact; and 7.47 out of 50 on division needs.
• Upgrading the 9.19-mile stretch of U.S. 17 in Chowan County from North Broad Street to the Chowan River Bridge from freeway to interstate standards has an estimated cost of $39.9 million. The project scores 8.75 out of 100 on statewide mobility; 13.2 out of 70 on regional impact; and 10.47 out of 50 on division needs.
• An Edenton multi-use bicycle and pedestrian path from Twiddy Avenue to the Chowan River fishing pier has an estimated cost of $400,000. It scores zero points on statewide mobility and regional impact, and 5.41 out of 50 on division needs.
• A proposed 2.77-mile connector in Chowan County from N.C. Highway 32 to U.S. 17 bypass has a price tag of $24.7 million. The project scores zero points on statewide mobility; 12.13 out of 70 on regional impact; and 9.75 out of 50 on division needs.
• Widening and repaving Perry’s Bridge Road in Perquimans County from N.C. Highway 37 to State Road 1213 – a 1.75-mile stretch – is estimated at $1.48 million. The project scores no statewide mobility or regional impact points but has a score of 7.89 out of 50 on division needs.
• A proposed 4.5 mile connector from Hughes Boulevard to U.S. 17 bypass is estimated at $37.6 million. It scores no state mobility or regional impact points but merits 7.49 out of 50 points on the division needs scorecard.
Don’t see a project on this partial list that you’re interested in? You can look for it on DOT’s interactive map at www.ncdot.gov/strategictransportationinvestments/.
“If anything, the strategic value has increased due to steady tourism and population growth, not to mention ongoing seasonal traffic congestion.”
Dan ScanlonCurrituck County manager
By Cindy Beamon
Sunday, June 29, 2014
CURRITUCK — The highway through Currituck to the Outer Banks may be crossed off the state’s list of key corridors in North Carolina.
County officials are protesting “glaring omissions” of N.C. Highway 168 and U.S. Highway 158 from the state Department of Transportation’s draft maps for Strategic Highway Corridors. DOT defines strategic corridors as highway systems with strong importance to the state in terms of connectivity, mobility, and economic prosperity.
The state previously listed the Mid-Currituck Bridge and the widening of Caratoke Highway and U.S. Highway 158 from Belcross to Barco as strategically important.
Being on the list did not guarantee funding but identified long-range priorities decades into the future.
Widening U.S. 158 in Pasquotank, Camden, and Currituck was once a priority as part of an intrastate highway system linking all counties to major highways. However, changes in how transportation projects are funded leaves its future in question.
The recently released Strategic Highway Corridors maps include U.S. Highway 17 alone for the five-county area. In the 14-county Division 1, U.S. Highways 64 and 13 are also listed.
Currituck has sent a letter to the state protesting the omissions, and there’s still a chance the draft maps will change. The state Department of Transportation is in the public comment phase and may revise the long-range plan before its final adoption later this year.
In a June 16 letter to state DOT officials, County Manager Dan Scanlon questioned why the U.S. 168-158 corridor had dropped in priority. The corridor links Currituck to Hampton Roads, provides a primary hurricane evacuation route, and serves roughly 80 percent of the 7 million annual visitors to the Outer Banks, he said.
“If anything, the strategic value has increased due to steady tourism and population growth, not to mention ongoing seasonal traffic congestion,” Scanlon wrote.
The county also objected to the deletion of another highway project that both Currituck and Camden counties have identified as crucial to the region.
The roadway in the area of Old Swamp Road/South Mills Road would provide a more direct link from U.S. 17 to the N.C. 168-U.S. 158 corridor.
Division 1 Engineer Jerry Jennings said the updated maps take a different approach than previous maps that identified future highway priorities. The name of the list has even changed from Strategic Highway Corridors to Strategic Transportation Corridors to underscore a focus on corridors most important to the state as a whole.
Jennings and Currituck officials say they want to know more about DOT’s rationale in excluding corridors that were once priorities.
“(Highways) 158-168 are both very important to our region and it certainly appears to us locally that they need to be part of the plan,” said Jennings.
Newly Added Info