Until I-74 and I-140 are finished in their entirety, we will be unable to attract large industrial manufacturing to Brunswick or Columbus Counties. There are far too many two-lane roads that are key ingress and egress points but can be shut down in a minute when a serious wreck or other problem arises. NC 87, 211, US 421, and US 701 are principal North-South routes and all four are inadequate.
If you specifically look at the Northern Brunswick and Columbus County corridor, your only adequate road is US74/76, but it only offers quick access to I-95 North. If you want to go South, you're back on a two-lane road. Go East to I-40 and you hit the logjam of Wilmington traffic. When the Memorial Bridge opens, it backs up traffic well past the US 421/I-140 cutoff. When you see a semi stuck in traffic, that smoke coming out the stack is money burning.
No one is going to build a plant here until we have an adequate, UN-INTERRUPTABLE road system that affords inbound and outboud shipments rapid access from and to I-95 and I-40.
As far as rail traffic, no one is going to build here with the HOPE that a rail spur can be built to the plant in our lifetime! In addition to being a very tax-unfriendly state, we are also becoming a nightmare to deal with relative to environmental requirements. Anyone who has tried to build anything in a wetland knows how long approval takes and what it costs in compensatory offsets if ordered. If I was building a plant and had to face the EPA and NC-DNR, I'd be looking elsewhere too!
So we're dealing with a chicken and egg, Catch 22 situation. No business, in part, because of lousy roads. No reason to build better roads unless we have some business to justify it and help pay for it. If you look at the locations chosen by both Continental and Caterpillar, however, the Interstate access was far superior to what we offer, and rail access was already present at one and guaranteed to be a rapid proposition at the other.
However, building better roads is something that we will have to face eventually. If you sincerely want to bring business along the 74/76 corridor, the three most important things we could do right now, in order of importance would be:
* Finish I-74 West from Wilmington to I-95 near Lumberton
* Finish I-140 to I-74 (Currently US 74)
* Make US 701 four-lane from Tabor City to I-40 near Newton Grove
...and if you're serious about a port in Southport....
* Make NC 211 four-lane from Southport to I-95.
Until we get these road projects completed, they're ALWAYS going to choose locations that are logistically better.
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