DOT chief focuses on future
By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Driverless cars and unmanned aircraft will be riding the wave of the future sooner than most people think, said N.C. Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon during an event Wednesday in Nash County.
Driverless cars will be hitting the market beginning next year. The automated automobiles will reduce highway fatalities. Drones will save lives in search and rescue and law enforcement situations, Trogdon said.
Electric cars are also on the immediate horizon. Such innovation is a double-edged sword because changes need to be made, but the state depends a lot on gas taxes, Trogdon said.
What's not in the near future is an overhaul of Interstate 95. Despite several studies, there is no work pending to improve the entire length of the highway.
“There is no plan,” Trogdon said, adding they need a plan because right now it looks like it's going to take 70 years to meet 20-year needs.
Trogdon was appointed the state’s top transportation official in January by Gov. Roy Cooper. As a former engineer for Division 4, which includes Nash County, Trogdon is trying to bring his 30 years of experience as an engineer and general in the National Guard to his new position. He is working to reduce wait times on major projects from 100 months to 12 months. Projects that were a decade away should be completed in a couple of years.
“We need to be aggressive,” Trogdon said. “We need to get these projects built and open to the public.”
The DOT has been accumulating money — $1.4 billion — instead of funding projects, Trogdon said.
For the past three months, Trogdon has been conducting an assessment of his department.
“When we promise a project in a given year, we need to follow through,” Trogdon said.
Trogdon was the keynote speaker at the Highway 17/64 Association’s regularly-scheduled monthly meeting Wednesday in the Brown Auditorium at Nash Community College. The association seeks to see U.S. 17 and U.S. 64 converted to Interstate 87 from Raleigh to Virginia.
Upgrading the highways to an interstate will have an incredible economic impact on the counties along its path, including Nash, said association spokesman Marc Finlayson.
Nash County Manager Zee Lamb and others said Trogdon presented information in a nuts-and-bolts manner not seen from the top of the DOT in many years.
Trogdon said it's been since the 1920s that a division engineer has went on to become state transportation secretary. That official connected all the county seats in North Carolina and paved thousands of miles of roads.