Raleigh, N.C. — Fayetteville leaders and community members said Tuesday they have waited their turn for state funding to help pay for construction on Interstate 295 around the city, and it's their turn.
Mayor Tony Chavonne, members of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and representatives from Fort Bragg were answering complaints about the state Board of Transportation's recent decision to allocate $275 million over six years to build an 8.1-mile stretch of the 36-mile outer loop.
"We followed the rules. We've done the work," Chavonne said. "We shouldn't be penalized because we have done it right, because we speak today with one voice or because we're not in Raleigh or in Charlotte."
Although a state budget shortfall has put the project on hold indefinitely, transportation leaders in both Raleigh and Charlotte, which also have urban loop projects under way, have argued that funding to complete their projects should be a higher priority because they need their roads more than Fayetteville needs its road.
Last month, a Charlotte transportation official sent a letter to the incoming Obama administration asking it to freeze federal funding.
R. Lee Myers, chairman of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, claims the state board's decision was based on politics rather than needs. The state Senate's majority leader, Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, and outgoing Department of Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett are from the Fayetteville area.
But there is need, Fayetteville-area officials said.
Chavonne and others say the I-295 loop is a vital component to the economic development of the area, as well as to security at Fort Bragg.
Col. David Fox, garrison commander of Fort Bragg, said the Army plans to close Bragg Boulevard on post to the public and that completing the 8.1-mile stretch from Ramsey Street to the All-American Freeway would allow traffic to be diverted onto Murchison Road.
The highway would also serve as a direct line to Interstate 95 for convoys leaving the military base.
"We have to move all that equipment through the local streets and neighborhoods to get to the highway," Fox said.
Since 2001, the military has moved more than 25,000 truckloads of equipment and personnel from the base. Having no direct line, Fox said, hinders the Army's ability to deploy rapidly in times of war or natural disasters.
Growth is another reason the funding is needed.
Chavonne said about 40,000 people could move to the area in the next few years as two Army command headquarters move to Fort Bragg from the Atlanta area.
DOT officials say those factors led to the decision to allocate more money to Fayetteville's I-295 than other urban loops received. Charlotte received $104 million over the next six years for the Interstate 485 loop, and Wake County received $5 million for the Interstate 540/N.C. Highway 540 loop.
Through 2008, however, I-485 received $1.05 billion, and I-540 received $757 million. I-295 got $66 million.