OPERATION GRIDLOCK: Why do transportation projects take so long?

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Operation Gridlock continues tonight with answers on how exactly the transportation project process works.

“If you look at the Wilmington Bypass for example, that project was planned in the 70s and it’s not even complete today,” Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Mike Kozloski said.

Getting a project complete on our roads is not easy or quick.

“It’s a matter of saying the same thing over and over and over again to the folks in Raleigh, those that have the resources to fund the projects,” New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said.

It all starts with 13 members of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and Director Mike Kozlosky.

“We prepare a long-range transportation plan every 5 years,” Kozlosky said.

That includes lots of projects including bigger priorities. Right now, the WMPO is working on six.

“The Hampstead Bypass, the Railroad Realignment Project, the Independence Boulevard Extension, re-establishing the rail line from Wallace to Castle Hayne and increasing direct flights to ILM,” Kozlosky said.

Then, those projects are scored at statewide, regional, and division tiers for consideration of funding.

“At the statewide level, it’s 100 percent data driven,” Kozlosky said. “At the regional level, it’s 70 percent data, 30 percent public input. At the division level, it is 50 percent data with 50 percent local input.”

What kind of data?

“Congestion, safety, things of that nature,” Kozlosky said.

Then, Kozlosky said all of the information and scores are sent to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“They incorporate that into their formula and then, projects are funded at those tiers,” Kozlosky said.

If you break down the formula, board member Jonathan Barfield said the NCDOT has a little bit more say on our road projects.

“It’s a weighted formula where the MPO has a weight of 40% and the NCDOT has a weight of 60%, so at the end of the day, DOT’s will will always prevail,” Barfield said.

Take a look at the Hampstead Bypass for example.

“It was scored at the state wide level. It did not receive enough points to get funded,” Kozlosky said.

The project was broken up into two separate portions helping it in another tier.

“When scored at the regional level, the section from NC 210 to 17 north of Hampstead has received enough points and there is enough funding for that project to get funded in the next 10 years,” Kozlosky said.

So at the end of the day, it is not simple. It includes a lot of formulas, and it takes a lot consistency on and off the roads to make your proposal become a reality.

“We need to say the same message over and over and over again, so eventually those individuals in Raleigh that will ultimately make the funding decision will hear our cries and recognize our need here,” Barfield said.

They are needs that compete with the entire state for funding.

The NCDOT announced projects to be funded in the next state plan today. The new Independence Boulevard extension which will connect Randall Parkway to Market Street is included.

Categories: Brunswick, Local, New Hanover, Pender

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