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NCDOT Asks Citizens How to Spend Billions of Dollars

PHOTO: Construction on I-40 in Statesville in Iredell County is part of the overall improvement project for the I-40 and I-77 interchange. Courtesy: NCDOT.
PHOTO: Construction on I-40 in Statesville in Iredell County is part of the overall improvement project for the I-40 and I-77 interchange. Courtesy: NCDOT.
July 15, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina's Department of Transportation wants to hear about the aging bridge or two-lane highway you may utilize every day as part of your commute.

The agency is asking the public to weigh in on what transportation needs they see in their daily lives through a series of public meetings. It's part of the Strategic Transportation Investments plan, passed into law last year, that will prioritize money spent on transportation projects.

However, the law also forces all transportation projects to compete for the same pool of money, which concerns Rob Brink, president of the North Carolina Public Transportation Association.

"What that means is a bus is going to have to compete with a bridge," says Brink. "And as you may guess, bridges are almost certainly going to win every time."

Over the next 10 years 371 transportation projects are planned in the Tarheel State, compared to 175 previously-planned projects before the Strategic Transportation Investments plan was passed into law. Public meetings are coming up in Carthage, Charlotte and Marion.

According to the American Public Transit Association, public transit ridership hit a 57-year high in 2013. Brink says because of medical or economic issues, public transit is the lifeline for thousands of North Carolinians.

"We deal with people every day that are completely, 100 percent dependent on their public transit ride," says Brink. "So it's hard to hold that one person up against millions of drivers every day."

In the past, North Carolina's 14 geographic transportation divisions received an equal amount of money per year for construction projects. Under the new Strategic Transportation Investments plan, projects will now be rated by their regional and statewide impact before they are funded.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC