State to convert rail line to trail


By Lindell John Kay
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Rocky Mount officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to an announcement by the N.C. Department of Transportation that a city rails-to-trails project will be funded in the next decade.

The state plans to install a multiple-use pedestrian and bike trail in Rocky Mount and the surrounding area using an existing abandoned railroad line, according to a preview of the State Transportation Plan.

Bob League, the city's principal transportation planner, declined to comment on the state's announcement through city spokeswoman Tameka Norman.

“I suggest we wait for the official and complete Draft STIP to be released for the public, before we react,” League said in an email. “There will be a period for public review and comment after January before NCDOT adopts the STIP in June 2017.”

League said the information the Telegram has is “only partial and not yet the Draft STIP.”

The state plan, which includes years 2018 through 2027, will be released in January.

The Telegram received information on the state plan from state transportation officials in a press release including comments by outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory.

“Our robust transportation network supports our strong economy and improved quality of life,” McCrory said. “Through the new transportation funding formula, we took the politics out of transportation planning to ensure roads and other important infrastructure are prioritized based on data, while providing flexibility to meet local needs. The new funding formula allows us to make smart decisions that keep North Carolina moving, and these projects demonstrate the process is working as intended.”

The plan includes nine aviation, nine bicycle and pedestrian, one transit and 14 highway projects for Division Four, which is made up of Nash, Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Wayne and Wilson counties.

Other projects include:

■ Upgrading U.S. 70 to freeway standards from the west end of the U.S. 70 Bypass to the Wayne-Johnston county line by eliminating at-grade intersections and driveway connections, which will improve traffic flow and safety;

■ Widening N.C. 125 from Interstate 95 to Old Farm Road in Roanoke Rapids;

■ Upgrading U.S. 117 from Lee’s Country Club Road to Old Smith Chapel Road in Wayne County by constructing a new connector road along U.S 117 and converting the intersections to interchanges;

■ Widening Wayne Memorial Drive to a multilane highway between New Hope Road and U.S. 70 Bypass;

■ Upgrading aviation facilities at the Johnston County Regional Airport by constructing a new T-hangar area and apron.

“These projects will help fulfill Governor McCrory’s 25-Year Vision for Transportation in North Carolina by better connecting communities across the state,” said N.C. Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson.

The projects are being paid for under the state’s Strategic Transportation Investments law, which allows the department to use data and local input to fund transportation projects at three levels: statewide, regionally and locally, also referred to as being at the division level.