Cites Morehead City bridge replacement, upgrades to Highway 70

Jim Trogdon, secretary for the N.C. Department of Transportation, speaks about major projects Tuesday while on site at the Slocum Road access to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. (Dylan Ray photo)

HAVELOCK — North Carolina Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon visited the area Tuesday to observe ongoing construction and give an update on the various transportation projects underway in the region.

Mr. Trogdon visited Slocum Road in Havelock, where a bypass is under construction and set to be complete by the end of the year to ease congestion caused by traffic coming and going from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point’s Slocum gate.

“It’s much better for supporting the thousands of thousands of employees changing shift, going in in the morning and out in the afternoon, clearing them off (Highway) 70 so that everyone else won’t see as much congestion here at the Slocum gate,” he said.  

Historically, Mr. Trogdon said the state spent an average of about $1.7 billion per year on transportation projects, but in recent years, officials have been trying to increase investment in transportation infrastructure. He said the state spent $3 billion last year on transportation, and he hopes to hit $4 billion in 2019.

The transportation secretary said a significant amount of that money is for projects in eastern North Carolina, including some in Carteret County.

“Right now, I’ve probably got as much construction going on in eastern North Carolina as we’ve had in our history,” Mr. Trogdon said.  

One major project on the radar for the county is replacement of the current two-lane Morehead City-Beaufort high-rise bridge. The replacement bridge will be four lanes, and there will also be an interchange constructed on Radio Island to help ease mobility between the towns.

N.C. Department of Transportation Division 2 engineer Jeff Cabaniss, who joined Mr. Trogdon on his visit, said the new bridge project is moving along, with design planning expected to kick off this year, right-of-way tasks slated for 2020 and construction starting sometime after that.

The new bridge was originally going to be a design-build project, one in which design and construction are handled by the same entity in order to expedite the project. Based on the draft 2020-29 State Transportation Improvement Plan, which was introduced earlier this month, Mr. Cabaniss said the project will now follow a more traditional process, with separate companies carrying out the design and construction.

“Timing of the right-of-way really didn’t change, but the construction moved back,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Other major projects Mr. Trogdon touched on included the Havelock bypass, which will be awarded to a contractor next month, and the James City bypass, which will soon begin construction. Both of those projects should help improve mobility on Highway 70 toward Carteret County.

Mr. Trogdon also discussed the Build NC Act, which passed in 2018 as a way of financing and expediting transportation projects through the sale of bonds. He said the state will sell the first round of Build NC bonds this year. According to NCDOT, repayment of any bonds sold will come from the state’s Highway Trust Fund, not the general fund.  

“Over the next five years, somewhere around $350 million in Build NC projects will be (built) eastern North Carolina, so there’s just lots of work going on,” he said.

Additionally, NCDOT announced last year the state will receive a $147 million federal INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) Grant for mobility improvements focused on eastern North Carolina. The grant will help upgrade segments of Highway 70 to interstate standards, widen portions of Interstate 95 and install about 300 miles of fiber optic cable to expand access to broadband internet.

Mr. Trogdon said the INFRA Grant presents a great opportunity for improving communications and mobility in eastern North Carolina. He said the broadband piece, especially, should be a boon for the region.

“We’re putting fiber or broadband communications … from U.S. (Highway) 70 to I-95, all the way to Morehead City,” he said. “The goal is to make it so we can communicate with connected vehicles in the future, but then also offer that up through a public-private partnership to communications companies so they can extend that to areas that are underserved with high-speed internet.”

The INFRA Grant will also help the state get closer to its goal of upgrading Highway 70 from Raleigh to Morehead City to interstate standards. Once that is complete, the stretch will be designated as Interstate 42. Mr. Trogdon said the future interstate will benefit the region’s economy by improving mobility and attracting companies to the area.

“It will definitely empower. One of the things that companies look for when they’re looking at locations for manufacturing and distribution is easy connections to the interstate,” he said. “We know freeways sometimes can do that, however, if you haven’t checked, U.S. (Highway) 70 still has lots of traffic signals.”

Mr. Trogdon said eliminating signalized intersections will make the journey from the Triangle region to Carteret County much quicker.

“We want to make sure that the whole U.S. 70 corridor is for free mobility so that you don’t have to worry about delays,” he said.

Mr. Trogdon said while construction may cause temporary headaches for residents, the benefits make it worth it in the end. He joked there is so much construction activity throughout North Carolina right now, it could be a new symbol for the state.

“When I came to the department, I interviewed for the job with the governor (Gov. Roy Cooper),” he said. “I promised him in four years when I leave, the new state tree will be the orange barrel, the new state flower will be the orange work zone sign and the new state motto will be ‘To build, rather than to seem.’”

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(8) comments

David Collins

Investment is political speak for more spending. Just sounds better and heck, everyone loves investing, don’t they? How about making sadly needed repairs and cleaning up what we already have? What a novel idea that would be.

chainsaw

Enlighten me collins as that what repairs are needed! It seems the Cooper admin. is trying their best to send some much needed funds to this backwards place to provide some decent paying jobs that do not need to depend on the FEDERAL govmint aka cherrie point!

DeadBolt

MCAS Cherry Point, in Craven County falls under the DOD Budget.

They were funded months ago in the omnibus bill if i'm not mistaken.

(as would any other military installation in the US, or abroad).

Leaving the old roads in dis repair just means after we dig in the great new deals, we have to tax more people to go back in and fix or remove the old ones, which is completely idiotic.


Any IDIOT should understand that even ones who want to pay more. [beam]

dc

Wasn't the bond idea McCory's? How long has all this been in planning. Sure it just started with Coop. Looks like good job opportunity in Edgecombe. All aboard. You can visit on weekends.

David Collins

If DeadBolt failed to enlighten you, chainsaw, perhaps a drive about with your eyes wide open would work. The A roads, Hy-70 and the like, are a trash dump with other roads not far behind. The B roads are crumbling under traffic loads they were not designed to handle. Sure, shiny new roads are nice and all that but without proper maintenance will suffer the same fate. Then there is the funding. The more roads added, the more funding “money” will be needed. Guess where that will come from. The money takers in Raleigh are dreaming up all sorts of schemes to get into our wallets.

ncjake2000

The same road that brought you to this "backwards" place will take you right back where you came from!
Wave bye-bye [censored]

noitall

More turning circles for EI in 2027?. And one at Bogue Inlet Drive? How can anyone plan any future business activity with this amount of uncertainty. The circle we have may be cute and clever and all that, but why place this thing in the middle of a straight road with almost no cross traffic? Why? Making a left turn is dangerous. Left turns are the problem created by the circles - and this one on Reed is too small. DOT wake up!

David Collins

If it is I that you are referring to, ncjake, you are totally correct. It will do just that. Why would I return to what I fled at the tender age of 26? I became aware of what was happening in my little town after military service. Did not recognize it at all due to liberalism and land grabbing greed. Came here and never looked back. Love this area but see the same mindset creeping into the area and the locals falling for the lure of the dollar. They Know Not What They Do does apply to what has been happening. Sure, you can sell it but you can not afford to live here now so move on. Roads are a two edge sword and the bite is quite sharp.

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