With the third and final Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) public information meeting planned for Tuesday, March 7 at the Fort Benjamin Community Center, Newport, time is running out for county residents and business owners to influence the county’s transportation plan for the next 25 to 30 years. Based on the participation of the two previous information meetings, Jan 31 at the Western Carteret Community Center and Feb. 26 at the County Board of Elections in Beaufort, turn out has been very low, which is an indication of benign neglect.
To date there has been mostly talk about the impact of the new I-42 corridor that will replace U.S. Highway 70, accelerating traffic flow from the Raleigh-Triangle market to the county and its beaches, resulting in unprecedented growth for the county. But much remains to be done if the county is to be prepared.
Tuesday’s meeting, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Ft. Benjamin Community Center, will give participants an opportunity to view and influence the N.C. Department of Transportation plans for the county’s roadways for the next two to three decades. The program will be an informal open-house format with NCDOT and county representatives available to answer questions and hear comments as participants examine maps and statistical information.
Only three major construction projects remain to be completed on the approximate 140-mile interstate that will replace U.S. Highway 70 which is interrupted by approximately 70 stop lights.
Of those three projects, the Havelock bypass should be completed in 2023, the New Bern bypass by 2024, leaving only the Kinston bypass scheduled for completion by 2030.
With the exception of the New Bern bypass that will significantly slow traffic flows going through James City, the other projects will have little negative impact, and the current two-and-a-half hour trip should shorten significantly with increased highway speed limits and no stop lights from the state capitol to the Carteret County line.
While the residents and business owners may be taking a cavalier approach to the anticipated traffic flow of visitors and commercial traffic, town officials are paying close attention based on recent interviews with the county’s nine town managers. All the managers are concerned that they will be facing problems that are yet to be identified and will need an almost immediate fix once they become apparent.
Despite the difficulty of identifying those issues, there is telling evidence, such as newly announced housing developments in every town, that the county is already seeing rapid growth. These new housing and commercial developments will demand other infrastructure investments in addition to highways, such as water, sewer and other public services including fire and rescue.
These needs are not going to be answered by highway designs, but the intentional planning of those designs and traffic flow expectations will help direct action for other infrastructure solutions.
A good example of the impacts of inadequate traffic design and planning is what happened in Wilmington, which was ill-prepared for the demands that I-40 put on the city. Within 20 years after the completion of the interstate Wilmington’s population doubled from 55,000 to 106,000, and the resulting congestion of the downtown roadways required a bypass to be built only a few years later.
Carteret County is not like Wilmington. It is a peninsular county so no bypass can be built; it is the final destination. Neither does the county have Wilmington’s basic economics of large corporations, a university such as UNC-Wilmington, nor the theatrical and movie production investments, which has resulted in the city’s identity as the Hollywood East.
Because of those obvious differences the development and growth of the county will be different, but it will happen. Carteret County has exceptional attributes, to include the best and most convenient water access points of any coastal county in the state. The relatively pristine, undeveloped nature of the county, along with the state’s lowest ad valorem tax rate with one of the top 10 school systems, makes the county an excellent investment for money and time.
Adding to the potential growth of the county is the growing populations in the counties along the I-42 corridor, including New Bern, Kinston, Goldsboro, Smithfield and finally the Raleigh-Triangle market. If the residents in those regions don’t become long-term investors here, they are bound to become at the very least regular tourists who will be putting additional pressures on our already stressed roadways and services.
Of particular note is the growth in Raleigh and Wake County. This year the Wake County School system is capping enrollment in 25 public schools due to over-capacity. One school, Apex Friendship Elementary, is already overcrowded after only being open one year.
Since every child usually comes with at least two additional family members, a mother and father, these school enrollment numbers are indicative of growing families that will want to take advantage of Carteret County’s tourist amenities, and may even choose become permanent, if not semi-permanent, residents.
Another telling statistic is the online or digital readership of the Carteret County News-Times and its associated publications. Last year over four million readers visited the newspaper’s online issues. Of that number 1.7 million were unique or one-time readers; the remaining 2.3 million readers were regular readers.
It’s difficult to extrapolate what these numbers mean for investment purposes, but just for the sake of discussion if 5% of those regular readers decide to either move here permanently or periodically, that represents 115,000 people. Keep in mind the county’s permanent population is 67,000 based on the 2020 census.
The last and best opportunity for the county to learn about and influence the development and growth of our roadways, bike paths and public transportation will be taking place Tuesday evening at Fort Benjamin Community Center, Newport. It is one program that should not be ignored.
A new jail, new schools, ever more water wells on an already stressed drinking water supply, more taxes and bonds, more traffic, more litter, at least it will be the same old leadership, lining their pockets with " rv" park lot rental income, appointing their cronies to boards, and of course bringing ever more tourists to the area.
Casa Carteret co.residents pay close attention to all this because,I TOLD YOU SO is going to be the future moniker of our local enviromental discusions.The money will talk and the common sense will be muted.
Holding those responsible and accountable are the political buzzwords of these times . They mean nothing without liability , be it instant removal , disgrace , or monetary . A mixture of it all would be best for it would limit the bad actors from entering the game and those narcissists in office to think twice before entering the realm of skulduggery . It matters not what they say . It matters greatly what they do . Office holders know far ahead of others what is coming down the pike . Due to the nature of their work . Giving them ample time to position themselves to take advantage of a situation . Nothing new there , gone on forever . Back , way back , in the day , tar and feathering was thought to be a deterrent but in today’s world we must be kinder and gentler . An effective means of getting significant restitution should be available . All it takes is sufficient proof and action by the aggrieved constituents . Without that you have nothing . We generally get what we ask for and deserve due to our decision making process . That has never changed as well .
Just my 2 cents .
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