Local News

Easley Announces Strategic Transportation Plan

Posted May 5, 2003 4:59 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley on Monday announced a strategic transportation plan for Southeastern North Carolina that will provide a major economic boost for the area.

The plan includes two new interstates through the region and will improve access to the Port of Wilmington, Sunny Point Military Installation and the beaches of Southeastern North Carolina.

"By providing two new interstates, this plan will put in place a solid transportation infrastructure that will improve safety and efficiency and ignite long-term economic growth in Southeastern North Carolina, as well as across the state," said Easley. "Because this plan offers a regional approach, all of these projects tie into each other and will effectively open up the area for a new level of commerce, attracting more jobs and more dollars."

Two New Interstates

First, Easley proposes to route the planned Interstate 74 from Whiteville to the Bolton area, then southeasterly along N.C. 211 to U.S. 17 and southward along U.S. 17 to South Carolina. This routing will provide regional access to the coastal area of our state and reduces environmental impacts to the area.

Second, Easley calls for upgrading U.S. 74/76 from Bolton to Wilmington, where it will tie into I-140 (Wilmington's Outer Loop) to interstate standards to improve safety and efficiency of the highway, especially during emergency evacuations.

As part of this plan, Easley proposes extending Interstate 20 from Florence, S. C. along U.S. 76 to I-74 at Whiteville, to tie into the upgraded U.S. 74/76 and extend I-20 from Florence, S.C., to Wilmington.

This corridor will provide both passenger and freight a convenient and safe new route from the East Coast to the West -- and will provide direct access to Atlanta from Eastern North Carolina. The N.C. Department of Transportation will work with the S.C. Department of Transportation to study this extension.

Corridor Extension

Finally, Easley proposes extending the Wilmington Outer Loop from U.S. 17 across the Cape Fear River to connect with Independence Boulevard in Wilmington. This project will significantly reduce congestion in the city and provide better access in and out of the Wilmington area. In addition, it will improve access to the Port of Wilmington and Sunny Point Military Installation.

Easley has directed the NCDOT to work with the Federal Highway Administration to seek federal funding and study the improvements.

In addition, Easley announced a series of statewide transportation forums to discuss improved freight movement for Southeastern North Carolina and across the state. The first of three forums will be held in Wilmington on May 23. The focus of the forum will be how the state can do a better job moving both passengers and freight from one mode of travel to another and improve access to North Carolina's boat ports.

Representatives from the N.C. Department of Commerce, State Ports Authority, freight airports, Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads, the state's trucking industry and the business and economic development communities will take part in the forum.