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New DOT Secretary Talks About Future of State's Roads

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RALEIGH — North Carolina used to have the reputation as the "Good Roads State." Now, with massive traffic congestion in areas like the Triangle, many people would use a different description.

The state's new Department of Transportation secretary took over the job five months ago, pledging to turn things around.

Now, Lyndo Tippett talks about what is working, and what needs work.

"As Governor Scott years ago got the farmers out of the mud, now the issue is getting the urban drivers out of traffic congestion," says Tippett.

There are still plenty of Triangle drivers stuck in the mud every commute. No one expected the state's transportation to turn that around in his first few months on the job.

Instead, Tippett has backed a number of short-term solutions.

For example, a short road will go a long way toward relieving the daily bottleneck at the Interstate 40/Interstate 540 interchange.

"It's called the Slater Road Connector," says Tippett. "This will enable the traffic to feed directly off 540 into Research Triangle Park, and would connect Slater Road with Page Road. We think we'll have this completed by year's end."

Tippett is also trying to speed up road construction by allowing one contractor to do all of the design and construction work.

He says that has projects like the I-540/Capital Boulevard interchange six months ahead of schedule.

"It's not an easy job and I'm not [yet] where I want to be," he says. "There are so many projects that we need to do, move forward on. It's a matter of determining priority. We have many demands on the funding we have."

On the tight DOT budget, Tippett says the state's number one need is not building new highways, but fixing the roads we already have.

Tippett says he still wants to explore reinforcing the shoulders on I-40 and using them for mass transit.

However, some of his own traffic engineers say that raises serious safety issues.