New projects aim to enhance transportation in Division 13
The N.C. Department of Transportation recently unveiled its draft 10-year transportation plan for 2020-2029 in Raleigh at the monthly Board of Transportation meeting.
The plan, called the Draft 2020-2029 State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, includes 16 new highway projects in Division 13, which consists of Buncombe, Burke, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford and Yancey counties.
The lone Mitchell County project listed in the STIP plan is the widening of NC 226 to three lanes from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Summit Avenue in Spruce Pine. Construction for that project has been delayed from the fiscal year 2023 to the fiscal year 2024 to assist in balancing funds, according to the plan.
The department’s 10-year plan is updated every two years. Projects scheduled in the first five years of the plan are considered committed and were not re-evaluated when the new plan was developed. But projects in the final five years of each 10-year plan are prioritized again for consideration in the next plan. The board of transportation is expected to consider final approval of the draft plan this summer.
“The 2020-29 draft STIP continues to show the desire for improved and safer transportation connections in western North Carolina,” said Mark Gibbs, Division 13 Engineer. “We have developed and vetted a comprehensive list of projects that will enhance the lives of our citizens by working diligently with transportation partners and local governments.”
The draft STIP includes projects across all transportation modes and in all 100 counties in the state. The list contains 1,266 highway projects, 86 aviation, 235 bicycle and pedestrian, six ferry, 23 public transit and 47 rail projects selected on statewide, regional and division levels. The projects were prioritized based on technical data as well as input from local officials and residents.
The draft plan includes about 500 changes in major highway projects from the current STIP. Half of the changes include new road projects. Also, there were about 200 projects where a schedule was changed for planning or budgeting needs, and 10 projects whose schedules were accelerated. Another 24 projects on the current STIP didn’t score high enough this time to remain in the new draft plan. A statewide list of these major highway changes can be found on the NCDOT STIP web page.
Projects that did not score high enough in the evaluation process to be funded at the statewide level rolled over to the regional level for consideration. Projects that were not funded at the regional level could still be considered at the division level. This cascading aspect of the process helps to ensure that local input plays an important role in prioritizing projects for funding. More information about the STIP and how transportation projects are funded is available on the NCDOT website.
Division 13 will host an in-house public comment session from Feb. 25-March 1, during regular business hours. It will be a chance for interested residents to review maps and handouts about projects, ask questions of local staff, and submit comments. There will also be an opportunity for residents to provide comments online, with those details being announced later.