Stimulus money to fund 70 N.C. highway projects

Posted February 24, 2009 1:05 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

Orange barrels / highway construction generic

— Seventy highway and bridge projects across North Carolina will begin in the next few months after the state obtained $466 million in federal economic stimulus funds, Gov. Beverly Perdue said.

Perdue toured the state Tuesday to promote three stimulus-backed projects in Kinston, Mint Hill and Alamance County.

“Our overriding goal is to get North Carolina’s economy moving by funding transportation projects that will create jobs from the mountains to the coast,” Perdue said in a statement. “My administration is working closely with local communities to determine which projects can be ready most quickly and deliver the greatest benefit. I will stress accountability, transparency and efficiency as we use the stimulus funds.”

The Kinston project, for example, will build an 8-mile connector road between U.S. Highway 70 west of Kinston and N.C. Highway 58 near the Global TransPark. The $64.3 million project will include the construction of 12 bridges.

"This improved link between U.S. 70 and GTP is critical to the further economic development of the region," said Transportation Secretary Gene Conti, who also serves as a vice president of Global TransPark. "This is a great investment to create jobs to build this economy."

Conti each $1 million in stimulus money should create 30 jobs, so the Kinston project should result in about 1,900 new jobs – both construction jobs and other positions as businesses move to or expand in the area because of the new road.

An unidentified man confronted Perdue about investing more money in the Global TransPark, which fiscal conservatives have cited for years as the poster child of wasteful government spending that has produced little economic benefit.

"Let me be direct: This connector is separate and apart from the TransPark. It's very important to the TransPark, but all of this (N.C.) 258 corridor is critically important," Perdue said later.

The $466 million is the first half of the stimulus money North Carolina will receive for highway improvements. The federal law President Barack Obama signed last week requires states to use their initial allocations within 120 days, and the second half must be committed to projects within a year.

Wake County projects included in the initial stimulus funding include repaving portions of the Interstate 440 Beltline and U.S. Highways 64 and 264. Durham projects include widening Old Oxford Road and repaving N.C. Highway 98 and U.S. Highway 501 Bypass.

Cumberland County will receive $63 million for the planned Interstate 295 loop around Fayetteville, while another $22 million is earmarked to extend Booker Dairy Road by more than 2 miles in Johnston County.

The other two stimulus projects Perdue promoted Tuesday were spending $17 million to improve N.C. Highway 218 from Interstate 485 in Charlotte to U.S. Highway 74 in Union County and $10 million to resurface five miles of Interstate 85/40 near the Alamance-Guilford county line.

Perdue said last week that she would pursue discretionary grant money included in the stimulus package to use for the $300 million replacement of the Yadkin River Bridge on I-85 in Davidson and Rowan counties. That money would be in addition to the state's allotment for transportation projects.

The initial stimulus money should create about 14,000 jobs statewide, Perdue said. Projects funded by the second half of stimulus money will be announced in the next 45 days. she said.

The state Department of Transportation is working with local planning organizations to determine which projects will be funded. The biggest factor is whether the projects can be under contract by June, officials said, followed by safety, mobility, infrastructure health and equity considerations.

"We want shovel-ready projects," Perdue said.