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State Highway Plan Omits Highways 158-168

“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

Staff Writer

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.

 

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