Public to weigh in on new NCDOT project formula

The North Carolina Department of Transportation will roll out the new strategic mobility formula next summer, and residents will have a chance to lobby for projects they feel are most beneficial to their communities before the projects are ranked according to need.

NCDOT will host a meeting July 15, a Tuesday, that will kick off a month-long public comment period where people can submit comments and concerns about local projects on the docket for coming years. The meeting will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Metrolina Regional Transportation Management Center, 2327 Tipton Drive. Public comments, which can be submitted at the meeting or until Aug. 14 by mail or online, will then be used in the final scoring for local and statewide projects and will help decide when certain projects will receive funding.

“(NCDOT) will determine from that public input how it will affect the points and ranking for (local) projects,” Division 10 Communications Director Jen Thompson said.

Statewide projects, such as multiple projects on Interstate 77 and U.S. 74, are not subject to the public comment period, which focuses solely on local Division 10 projects. Division 10 covers Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus, Anson and Stanly counties. All 14 state divisions are required to host a 30-day public comment period.

One of the few projects on the division’s top 57 needs list located in the south Charlotte area is the planned interchange at Interstate 485 and Weddington Road. The $20 million project currently ranks No. 12 on the list, although it could change priority following the public comment period. The project could decrease traffic on Providence Road by allowing Union County commuters to reach I-485 from a different access point.

“(The public comment period) gives the public a chance to look at (local projects) … that’s the public opportunity to help us and make sure we have it right,” Division 10 Engineer Louis Mitchell said.

Another project, ranking No. 4 on the division needs list, is the improvements to the intersection of Monroe Road with Rama and Idlewild roads near south Charlotte. The project would cost $1.2 million if NCDOT decides to move forward with construction.

All of the local division projects will vie for funding against roughly 3,000 projects throughout the state, not including funds that will be used for statewide projects, Mitchell said. Projects that already have funding and are in progress or will begin before June 2015 will not be included in the state’s new funding formula.

The new funding method came after the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the Strategic Transportation Investments Law. The new law, which includes the strategic mobility formula, uses data to help determine what projects are of higher priority and should receive funding. The formula takes into account data from NCDOT, the comments from NCDOT engineers and public comments, according to the department’s website. Road infrastructure projects are scaled alongside aviation, rail, bicycle and other public transportation methods.

The new formula also will help increase the number of projects funded over the next 10 years to 371, as opposed to the 175 originally planned for the coming years, according to the department’s website.

Find a full list of projects the public will have a chance to discuss at ncdot.org/strategictransportationinvestments/. Those unable to attend the public comment meeting on July 15 can submit a written or online form, which also can be found on the NCDOT Strategic Transportation Investments website. Written forms should be mailed to Stuart Basham at 716 W. Main St., Albemarle, N.C., 28001.

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