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Showing posts from January, 2010

My thoughts on NC Transportation Equity Formula

A few weeks ago, a blog reader made the following comment on my post "Will Charlotte stop complaining about I-485 now?":

Adam, do you have any idea if the equity formula will be modified or dropped in the next few years? With rural areas losing clout in the state government to the more urbanized Piedmont, and the larger number of discontented voters voicing their concerns in the Piedmont, it seems likely to me that NCDOT and/or the General Assembly will want to alter this some way soon. That would be a shame for our rural areas of course, particularly in the east and west, but as an urbanite in the Triangle, I frankly think it needs to happen, as right now the major metropolitan areas just are not getting what they need if they want to continue to boom transportation-wise this century. Your thoughts?A great comment and question by the reader.  So here goes.  (Editors note: Brian or Bob if you want to write your own opinion to this comment - feel free.):

The first part of the…

Town of Leland has numerous questions/concerns over Cape Fear Skyway

We've been documenting some of the concerns the town of Leland, NC has had over one of the routings of the proposed Cape Fear Skyway.  The northern routing option of the highway runs the closest to the town.

Leland Mayor, Walter Futch, has publicly come out against the highway.  He's stated that if the northern routing was built it would separate his town.

Leland's view is contrary to Brunswick County Commissioners, who on January 19th passed a resolution in support of the northern route.

The town has sent to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority 16 pages of questions in regards to the highway - from financing to routing to economic impacts.  Futch said he will not consider changing his mind until the NCTA answers the 16 page questionnaire.

The questions can be found here.

Story Link:
Alternatives to Skyway possible, officials say ---Wilmington Star News

Commentary:
There are a number of worthy questions from the town - but there are also a number of questions that I'm …

Mackinac Bridge to be featured on a postage stamp

For the second time in its history, the Mackinac Bridge, "The Mighty Mac", will be featured on a U.S. Postage Stamp.  The latest stamp will formally go on sale Wednesday, February 3rd. 

The new stamp is a Priority Mail stamp and will cost $4.90.  The Mackinac Bridge Authority and Michigan Department of Transportation will unveil the stamp at an 11 a.m. Wednesday ceremony at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace.

The bridge was first featured on a U.S. Postage stamp in 1958 (shown below) - the first class stamp cost only three cents.



Story Links:

Mighty Mac stamp to be unveiled ---Detroit Free Press

HT: Jim Parker

When the TIGER Discretionary Grants are awarded, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people

Tonight I was curious in knowing what other projects have other state's applied for the $1.5 billion in TIGER Discretionary Funds that will be awarded next month.  My original thinking was that it was only one project per state, and it would be a neat idea to maybe research and blog about them  Bzzzztttt, was I wrong!

The USDOT received 1380, yes 1380, applications from all 50 states, plus Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.  The total amount of requests total $56.5 billion.  That is nearly 38 times the amount that will be awarded!!!!  No wonder why the final decisions have been delayed.

Texas led with 125 applications - followed closely by California (117), and Florida (115).  The least amount of applications came from Hawaii with only 1. New Hampshire, South Dakota, and North Dakota only had two applications.

It appears that any organization could apply for the TIGER Grants - and that would explain why SCDOT encouraged Horry County to put in an a…

NC's New (Very Welcoming) I-73/74 Visitor Centers

Since a snowstorm forecast for this weekend would probably scuttle my road trip plans, I decided to take advantage of the temporarily spring-like weather on Thursday (1/28) to visit the two newly opened I-73/74 Rest Areas/Visitor Centers.

SOUTHBOUND VISITOR CENTER
My first stop was the southbound rest area that is up a hill and looks over the freeway corridor below. Below is a photo of the complex, except for the vending area:
Here's a closer look at the Visitor Center itself:
The controversy over building these rest areas was whether they should be 'Welcome Centers' or 'Visitor Centers.' The state backed down on Welcome Centers because they would be run on state funds and were seen as inappropriate for this location. From looking at the photos above, and the what was put into the surroundings, it appears what we have here though is Welcome Centers in all but name. The parking lots for both are very large, at least just as large as the I-85 South Welcome Center near th…

New York's Rest Areas May Close

According to a recent article in the Albany Times Union, New York Governor David Paterson is considering closing a number of rest areas along the highways of the Empire State. The number of rest stops that are subject to closure could be as many as 35. Some of the rest areas in question are in more populated areas, such as along I-87 (Northway) in Clifton Park. Others are in more sparsely populated areas in the Catskills, Adirondacks and Southern Tier regions of New York State.

According to the proposed 2010-2011 budget, the closure of rest areas could garner as much as $2 million in annual savings. Also, which rest areas are closed and which rest areas remain open are subject to the availability of services near the rest area. So while the very nice looking rest area in Clifton Park may be shut down because there are places to stop nearby, some of the rest areas along I-81, I-86, I-87, I-88, I-390 and NY 17 could remain open.

This would not affect rest areas along the Thruway, sin…

Virginians for Appropriate Roads I-73 Appeal Denied

Virginians for Appropriate Roads (VAR) may have suffered a fatal blow in their attempt to block the eventual construction of Interstate 73. 

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal by VAR.  VAR announced their intentions to appeal U.S District Court Judge James C. Turk's decision last October.  Turk ruled that the Virginia Department of Transportation did all that was necessary required by Federal Law in studying the route.

Even with this decision, Interstate 73 in Virginia is a long long way from reality.  Funding is not available for the route at this time and the foreseeable future.

Story:
Appeal on I-73 is denied --Martinsville Bulletin

As decision on Yadkin River Bridge looms, status of Wil-Cox Bridge uncertain

Piggybacking on my earlier post on the Yadkin River Bridge, there is also information about the oldest standing of the Yadkin River Crossings.

The future ownership of the Wil-Cox Bridge, built in 1922, will be determined by the pending decision on TIGER Grant funds to replace the newer I-85 Yadkin River Bridge.

NCDOT has offered to sell the bridge to Davidson County for a sum of $2.5 million.  Davidson County would then convert the historic concrete arch bridge for use by pedestrians only.  After the bridge is converted for pedestrian use - any of the 2.5 million not spent will be returned to Davidson County for maintenance on the bridge.

However, there are concerns on how much the conversion will cost and how much Davidson County would annual spend on maintenance.  NCDOT has given a deadline of March 1st on their offer.  That was contingent on NCDOT being awarded the TIGER funds.  Funds that may not be awarded until February 17th.  Of course, if NCDOT doesn't receive any grant mo…

NC and SC await TIGER Grant decision

Within the next 30 days, we'll know if North Carolina and South Carolina will receive all, some, or none of the maximum $300 million of $1.5 billion highway grant money that can be awarded to states for large highway or bridge projects.  The money is part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

States were allowed to submit applications to the federal government for these funds.  North Carolina's application is for the replacement of the aging I-85 bridges over the Yadkin River.  South Carolina's request is to help construction the first six miles of Interstate 73 in the state.  (I-95 to US 501 near Latta.)

The awarding of the grant money should occur by February 17th.  It either state receives funding, construction on either project should begin later this year.

Story Links:
Yadkin River bridge decision may come next month  --High Point Enterprise

Yet another rockslide on I-40 in Western NC

Another rockslide hit Interstate 40 in Western North Carolina last week.  This time the rock slide occurred at mile 6.5 near the Harmon's Den exit (Exit 7).  This landslide occurred a few miles east of the major October 25th landslide that has kept Interstate 40 closed ever since.  Because of the I-40 closure from the October landslide, there was no traffic on the highway when the slide occurred.

Recent heavy rains in the area appear to have initiate the slide.  The amount of debris that has covered the roadway is about 50 dump trucks worth.  NCDOT expects to have this slide cleared in about three to four weeks.

NCDOT has said that the most recent slide has no impact on their cleanup from the October 25th slide.  They still expect Interstate 40 to be re-opened through the western mountains sometime in March.

You can follow updates on the I-40 Slide on twitter at: http://twitter.com/i40_rockslide

Story Links:
Heavy rains spawn rock, mud slides in WNC ---Asheville Citizen-Times
New ro…

Lanny Wilson resigns from NC Board of Transportation and Turnpike Authority Board

(Editors Note: I am trying to get as many blog entries done as possible prior to the NC State/North Carolina Basketball game.  I have about three or four more entries including a response to a reader's comment to do.)

Within the past week, Lanny Wilson, a Wilmington developer, resigned from both the State Board of Transportation and his vice chairmanship on the board of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.  Wilson, who was a key fundraiser for the campaigns of former governor Mike Easley and current governor Beverly Perdue, served on the State Board of Transportation for nine years and on the NCTA's board since 2002. 

Wilson was appointed to the State Board of Transportation by then governor Easley.

Wilson's name has come up in an North Carolina Board of Elections investigation and hearing on campaign finance violations.  He testified in an October Board of Elections' hearing on contributions to the North Carolina Democrat Party and Easley's 2004 re-election camp…

Mid-Currituck Bridge Environmental Impact Study to be released soon

Soon, perhaps within weeks, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority will release the Environmental Impact Study on the Mid-Currituck Bridge.  This is the next big step needed to be completed before construction can begin on the approximately $660 million project.

The study was to have been released last year, but the NCTA held back as they wanted to include an 'Option B' design in the study.  'Option B', plans for which was released to the public last October, would move toll booths closer to US 158 and also change the location of Aydlett Road.  Aydlett residents and Currituck County Commissioners both oppose 'Option B'.

After the study is formally made public, the NCTA plans to hold another round of public hearings on the results.

Story Links:
Currituck Mid-County Bridge study close to release ---The Daily Advance

Although years away from construction, PTC begins ROW acquisition for next leg of Southern Beltway

Though we may not drive on it for at least another 10 years - if ever, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has slowly begun to acquire property for the next leg of the Southern Beltway in suburban Pittsburgh.  The right-of-way acquisition is happening along the path of the 13 miles US 22 to I-79 section for PA Turnpike 576.

The PTC will acquire approximately 100 homes in Cecil, Robinson, and South Fayette Townships.  Although the Turnpike Commission currently has funds available to purchase land along the proposed highway, it is nowhere near procuring the projected $730 million in funds to build the highway.  As a result, the PTC is allowing property owners to vacate the land at their discretion.

For more:
Proposed highway prompts vacancies ---Washington Observer-Reporter

Flooding causes rare I-376 message sign to be revealed

Monongahela River flooding closed Interstate 376 in downtown Pittsburgh.  As a result of the closure, a variable message or is it rotating message guide sign that reads West I-376 displayed its other message.  The Road is Closed and all traffic must exit left. (Grant St. - Exit 71A.)

Blog Reader Ed Szuba sends along this shot.


New I-73/74 Visitor Center Rest Areas Open*

*(At least the Northbound one)

From Sunday's (1/17/10) Asheboro Courier Tribune-
"After years of planning and a little over one year of construction, the Piedmont Visitor Centers on the Randolph/Montgomery County line are open for business — at least to northbound travelers.

Those headed south may have to wait about one more week.

DOT officials project that half a million travelers will stop at the two Visitors Centers each year.

On Friday [1/15], facilities on the northbound side of U.S. 220 Bypass began welcoming visitors. The doors were opened at roughly 3:30 p.m. after some last-minute work to remove traffic barrels and check on guard rails.

Jeff Loflin, DOT regional engineer, said final work on signage is stalling the opening of the facility on U.S. 220 Bypass South. He expects those concerns to be cleared up quickly.

Visitor Centers in the center of the state are a unique phenomenon for North Carolina. North Carolina has nine state-operated welcome centers operated by a divisi…

National Road fans will enjoy this site

Steve Colby of Cumberland, MD has recently started a new website chronicling the history of the Cumberland Road. The Cumberland Road, more commonly known as The National Road, celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2011.

Colby's site will "document the history of the people, families, businesses, towns and cities that grew alongside." He currently has an extensive look at Maryland and is working west into Pennsylvania.

Steve's site can be found at - http://www.cumberlandroadproject.com/
He also has a blog - http://blog.cumberlandroadproject.org/

I've added it to my favorites, you should to.

Roadtrip to Greensboro Through High Point

As Adam indicated on his I-73 meeting post, I took a trip Thursday afternoon to attend the workshop put on by NCDOT showing the revised plans for the NC 68-US 220 Connector. I also was able to talk to engineers working on the project to start in 2012 which will widen US 220 south of NC 68 to the Connector. Adam posted what I learned on his previous entry.

On the way, I thought I'd take the opportunity to confirm sign revisions along the I-85 portion of the Greensboro Loop I hadn't visited before and to check on progress since December in building the new I-74 freeway. According to NCDOT documentation, only .3% progress had been made in the month since, not surprising given the weather. The project between Business 85 and Spencer Road at the end of the year was listed as being 81.2% complete.

1. US 421 signage. My trip took me down US 15-501 south to US 64 east to US 421 North to I-85.
I wanted to make sure the signage on 421 north had been revised after the I-40 re-routing:
The si…

PA Keystone Markers Preservation Update and a website update too!

Jim Carn of the Pine Creek Preservation Association sent along another restored PA Keystone Marker.

Little Pine Creek:

Here's the original taken by David Brunot.
Now for the restored sign.
Looks pretty sharp!

Nathaniel Guest continues to work on creating a preservation trust for Pennsylvania Keystones. The trust will assist Pennsylvania municipalities in repairing, restoring, or replacing a current or lost marker. He is currently working on designing a website that local municipalities can access to learn more on what they can do and what resources are available to them for the markers.

While we're at it, I started working through a bunch of PA Keystones on the website. So far I have added/update 10 markers. They include the towns of Leechburg, New Centreville, Lexington, Wilson, Forest City, Waterville, and Roaring Branch. The Keystones also served as geological guides for rivers, creeks, and streams - three of the keystones added were for them. Tunkhannock Creek, Ramsey Run…

Details of the NC68/US 220 I-73 connector

NCDOT was gracious to send me their plans of the proposed NC 68/US 220 Connector that will one day carry Interstate 73. The blog's Bob Malme also attended tonight's public workshop and was able to get additional details on the project and will be included below.

First, the entire project is 13 miles in length and will consist of three segments. The connector, which will be built totally on a new alignment, is approximately 8.5 miles in length and will be built to Interstate standards and a 70 mph design speed. Previously, it was thought that the road would be built just short of Interstate grade and upgrades made over time, but that is no longer the case.

The Connector itself is broken down into two sections (A & B). Going west(South I-73) to east (North I-73), there will be interchanges at NC 68, NC 150 in Summerfield and US 220.

Under the original plan, Interstate 73 was to follow NC 68 South to Interstate 40. But those plans have changed, I-73 will briefly bump NC 68…

Leland, NCTA, NCDOT to hold Cape Fear Skyway public workshop on Jan. 22nd

The town of Leland along with NCDOT and the Turnpike Authority will host a public workshop on the Cape Fear Skyway on Friday, January 22nd. No details on where and when were available.

Leland has expressed the most concern over the Skyway project. Leland Mayor, Walter Futch, has express concern over the northern alternative of the project. That proposal would have the greatest impact on Leland

“It separates our town,” he has said.

Futch would like to state to spend some of that money on widening US 74/76 through town and to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.

Story Link:
Town of Leland to hold public meeting for Skyway Bridge --WECT-TV

HT: Pat Batleman

NC Attorney General's Office: I-485 financing plan is legal

In a letter to NC Secretary of Transportation, Gene Conti, Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson G. Kelly declared the "design-build-finance" plan for the missing Interstate 485 as legal. The letter, available here, pointed to a 2006 General Assembly Act as the legal precedent that will allow the Governor's plan to go forward.

The act "...further expanded NCDOT's contracting authority by allowing the Department, with Board of Transportation approval, to enter into agreements with private entities, political subdivisions and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority to finance by tolls and other financing methods authorized by law, the cost of acquiring, constructing, equipping, maintaining, and operating highways, roads, streets and bridges. "

Interestingly, later amendments to the law allow NCDOT to enter into similar agreements for all transportation projects including rail.

Additional Stories:
Plan for Charlotte Beltway Wins State Endorsement ---Charlotte Busi…

WVDOH: We may have the Mon-Fayette Expressway done by the end of this year

A WVDOH official indicated that the WV portion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway could be open by the end of the year.

The I-68/Bower's Lane interchange project should be completed by November. The northern half of the interchange which connects to Bower's Lane is 40 percent complete. The southern half of the interchange - a direct tie in to Interstate 68 - is 25 percent finished.

Story Links:
W. Va. portion of expressway could open this year ---The Charleston Gazette
Mon-Fayette Expressway ---WDTV w/video

Commentary:
I just can't see how the direct connection with I-68 will be finished by the end of the year. I expect that West Virginia will open the highway to Bower's Lane - forcing traffic to take a less than one mile detour on WV 857 to get to I-68 - then open the direct connection to I-68 sometime next year.

New York Comptroller Questions DOT on Bridge Repairs

According to an audit from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, slightly more than a third of serious highway bridge defects were not handled by NYSDOT within an acceptable time frame. The audit finds that there are serious bridge defects on bridges throughout New York. Another report from the Comptroller's office had found that 93 bridges had a current safety rating that was as bad or worse than the Champlain Bridge, which was recently demolished after serious bridge defects were found on that bridge. A number of frequently used bridges, including the Tappan Zee Bridge and Peace Bridge, were not included in this audit, but are also in serious need of improvements and repairs.

Granted, New York State is also in a serious financial situation, but not paying attention to the infrastructure may have more dire circumstances.

DiNapoli hits DOT over bridge repairs: Albany Times Union

Wake Forest, NC to install wayfinding signs

If you're traveling through Wake Forest, North Carolina in the upcoming weeks, you may see some new signs.

The town is currently in the process of installing 15 new wayfinding signs. Road crews were setting anchors for the new signs today. The signs will be located on US 1A, NC 98 Business, along with local streets.

If you'd like to see the specs for all 15 signs, here's the link. (The file is rather large over 3.5 mb)

Randolph County Visitor Center construction photos

I came across this post from Michael Mahan on the under construction I-73/74 Visitor Center in Randolph County. At the bottom of the post is a photo stream taken by Will Weaver showing the under construction Rest Area and Visitor Center near Seagrove.

The Visitor Center is scheduled to be opened later this month.

A few years ago there was some controversy on whether or not this would be a State Welcome Center. Originally legislated to be a Welcome Center, backlash from the decision forced a reversal and the Welcome Center became a Visitor's Center.

The difference between the two is Welcome Centers are manned by state employees compared to local volunteers at a Visitor Center. The cost to man a Welcome Center and the fact that it was 50 miles from the South Carolina line helped to fuel the backlash.

Also, check out Mid South Irrigation and Landscape's photo gallery of the fountain that will be on display at the Visitor's Center.Randolph County Visitor Center construction pho…

Some 2010 Massachusetts Sign Photos

The recent holidays gave me an excuse to travel back to my home state and check out progress on the various highway projects, particularly signing projects, going on. While not much progress has been made on MA 3 , one old sign taken down (the original Exit 20 sign for I-93 South), nor on I-93 from Randolph to Boston (1% completed since last spring, a few blue gas/food/lodging signs), there has been new signage put up for other road construction related projects south of Boston.

1. The "128" Add-A-Lane Project. This project, which will add a fourth travel lane between the MA 24 Exit (Exit 4 on I-93/US 1) and the MA 9 Exit (Exit 20 on I-95/128), has started its lane adding-phase after several years of bridge reconstruction projects. Currently, work is mostly complete around the I-95 South interchange and is proceeding north (on I-95) toward the South US 1 Exit and north (on I-93) to MA 24 South exit (confused yet?). New signs started going up on I-95 toward US 1 last fall. H…