Local News

Wake Leaders Are Behind DOT's Move for More Realistic Construction Plans

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com

RALEIGH — Wake County leaders, specifically the mayors of the Wake County towns, agree they like the idea of theDepartment of Transportationcoming up with a more realistic transportation improvement plan.

The problem they have now is that they must fight to get road projects restored to that plan to satisfy the people who live in their towns.

Wake County mayors say they are solidly behind the DOT's move for more realistic construction planning.

"At the same time, we must emphasize that the schedule for Triangle projects is not realistic in terms of meeting current traffic congestion, much less the growth which is anticipated over the seven year period," saidCaryMayor Koka Booth.

The mayors want help from Washington and state legislators.

Release of a new draft of the state's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) has Wake County leaders, and others, upset.

Hundreds of much-needed highway projects would be delayed for years if the program is adopted as it was presented by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The DOT has more than $9 billion for construction over the next seven years, but it is more than $2 billion short. There are questions to be answered.

Wake County leaders met Monday to voice their concern about the plan.

Wake mayors, commissioners, Chambers of Commerce members, and others in charge of setting local transportation priorities, are very critical of new highway construction priorities set by the state.

Crowded Highway 64 in Knightdale is but one example of projects delayed in the new Transportation Improvement Program.

A new 64 bypass around Knightdale would be delayed three years. DOT says the new draft TIP is more realistic than past plans and roads are a personal issue.

"When people ask for them, they expect you to do them on that schedule. What we need to be able to do is say in a very candid way, this is what we're going to do. You can live with this schedule," said Norris Tolson, head of DOT.

However, Triangle drivers have been promised schedules before and are tired of waiting. Delays in major Triangle projects could stunt growth and detract from quality of life.

"We have to build the roads where they meet the needs of the citizens of the state, who have to get to work and have to go to their homes and that's where we have to put the priorities," according to Carolyn Grant, a DOT board member from Raleigh.

Some critical projects serving Research Triangle Park will be moved up on the priority list such as widening Highway 55 and Outer Loop planning.

"The work that will go on in the park to overcome the traffic congestion out there will go on concurrently with whatever is in the TIP," Tolson said. "Finding the funding for it is the big challenge, of course."

Funding is the challenge for everyone. According to Booth, there is money available in some areas. Booth wants to know why that money wasn't factored into the TIP scheduling.