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Road Projects’ Rankings Due Soon

Road projects’ rankings due soon

By Cindy Beamon

The Daily Advance

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nobody has to tell the Albemarle region to dream big for highways, airports, ferries, bike paths and other transportation projects.

Counties in the region have compiled a wish list for future transportation projects totaling in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

The list includes the Mid-Currituck Bridge, ferry replacements, airport improvements, bike and pedestrian trails, and 130 other various transportation projects within the 10-county Albemarle Regional Planning Organization.

Eventually, all the projects will be scored and ranked according to the state’s new transportation funding formula. No one knows yet what new projects — or what projects on the state Department of Transportation’s old list — will rise to the top.

Gov. Pat McCrory and state lawmakers adopted a new transportation funding policy last year they say will more objectively decide which projects are the most needed across the state.

Odds are most of the locally-proposed projects will not make the cut. The wish list appears way too costly for the state’s budget.

The 14-county district comprising DOT’s Division I has $36 million appropriated for state roads, bicycle/pedestrian, aviation and ferry projects. Most of the 130-plus projects proposed in the region would be funded at this level.

Another $44 million will be available for projects funded at a 20-county regional level. Those projects cover North Carolina roadways and regional transit programs.

Some projects — like the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge — will compete for funds available at the state level. These projects mostly focus on major highway projects of statewide importance.

Scores for local projects are tentatively scheduled to be ready by July 31. After then, the state’s Strategic Planning Office of Transportation will decide what top-ranking projects it can actually fund.

Part of the scoring process will take place at the local level.

The Albemarle Regional Planning Organizations, comprised of county commissioners from 10 counties including Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Chowan, will meet next week to discuss its scoring criteria. Traffic counts, crash risks and lane size could all factor into what road projects score the highest. The ARPO will schedule a 30-day public comment period, possibly in mid-March, after it finalizes its scoring method.

The ARPO’s score will only be part of each local project’s overall score.

The scoring breakdown for Division 1 projects is:

• 25 percent will be the ARPO score

• 25 percent will be the score by DOT’s Division I staff

• 50 percent will be the state’s SPOT score based on another formula designed to measure the project’s worthiness.

At the regional level, the SPOT score counts for 70 percent of the score. At the state level, the SPOT score counts for 100 percent of the score.

Even top-scoring, top-ranked projects are not guaranteed funding, said Angela M. Welsh, ARPO planning director.

For now, the list still includes projects that have waited unsuccessfully for years to get funded.

It also includes three new proposals asking the state to fund stormwater improvements.

Currituck Commissioner Butch Petrey said he asked DOT to fix flooding problems at N.C. Highway 168 and Puddin Ridge Road that some residents claim were created when NC 168 was widened years ago.

Welsh said she’s not sure if DOT will allow stormwater projects to be considered, but she’s added it to the list until she gets clear direction.

Ferry replacements are also on the project list but that could change. The ARPO could adopt a state DOT proposal to charge tolls as an alternate way of funding ferry replacements. The ARPO board is scheduled to hear the proposal Monday but it is not clear when, or if, a vote will be taken on the politically hot topic.

Currituck officials and state lawmakers say the tolls are unfair to Knotts Island residents who rely on the Knotts Island-Currituck ferry for everyday business.

If the ferry replacements remain on the project list, they will be scored along with all of the other region’s proposed projects.

 

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