Southwest Bypass Project To Begin in 2015
By Michael Abramowitz
GREENVILLE, NC (December 9, 2014) - State transportation officials announced in Greenville today that they have moved up the construction schedule for the Southwest Bypass highway project.
The project, originally slated for completion in 2020, will be completed by 2018, based on a new funding system, Greenville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and Department of Transportation officials said during a news conference at City Hall.
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“We’re very excited about this day and what it represents,” Greenville Mayor and MPO Chairman Allen Thomas said. “This is a project that deserves recognition; it’s been a long time coming.”
The 12-mile, approximately $250 million project will connect U.S. 264 at Stantonsburg Road in Greenville to N.C. 11 south of Ayden. The expected Interstate-quality highway, with five interchanges and a 70-mph speed limit, is expected to speed the traffic flow around Greenville, relieve congestion in Greenville and improve traffic safety, DOT Division 2 Engineer John Rouse said.
The interchanges will be located two and a half miles south of Ayden; at N.C. 102 just west of Ayden; at Forlines Road west of Frog Level Road; at Dickinson Avenue west of Bell Arthur Road; and at U.S. 264 west of Stantonsburg Road at the current U.S. 264 interchange.
The design/build project allows the NCDOT to contract with a team of design firms and contractors so they can simultaneously design and construct the project, streamlining and expediting its completion, Rouse said.
There are four bidders on the list for the NCDOT’s consideration, and bidding will open March 17, followed immediately by utility relocation, right of way and acquisition and highway construction, Rouse said.
The new highway, part of the state’s new 10-year Strategic Transportation Initiative Program, is expected to increase the area’s connectivity to the Atlantic coast north and south of Greenville and among all of eastern North Carolina’s metropolitan areas, the officials said.
“This project is about much more than the dollars incorporated; it’s the future of eastern North Carolina,” Thomas said. “The Greenville-Kinston area is the hinge point of Gov. McCrory’s corridor plan connecting the Hampton Roads, Va., area with our deep-water ports in Morehead and across the Carolinas.”
Thomas stood beside Rouse and other project development partners and elected officials whose communities are directly affected by the project. N.C. Transportation Board Vice Chairman Ferrell Blount and fellow board member Hugh Overholt; Ayden Mayor and MPO Vice Chairman Steve Tripp; Winterville Mayor Doug Jackson, Simpson Mayor David Boyd; Pitt County Commissioners Jimmy Garris and Glen Webb; and Lenoir County Commissioner Mac Daughety also attended the conference.
The strategic mobility funding formula is part of the state’s 10-year Strategic Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), laid out to plan North Carolina’s transportation system, Blount said. The criteria for prioritizing projects are safety creation, congestion relief, economic development capacity and connectivity.
“This project is a perfect example of connecting Kinston’s Global Transpark to the port of Norfolk, Va.,” Blount said. “It’s important that our industries and people are connected together so we can grow together.”
The STIP policy takes politics out of the allocation of state funds to build transportation funding by computing scores and applying values to projects that will give the state the greatest possible value for available funds, Blount said.
During the next 10 years, the program will fund 478 highway projects statewide that add 300 jobs, and nearly 1,100 projects across all transportation modes in all 100 counties. The previous state formula would have funded only 175 projects with the same amount of money, Blount said.
Sixty percent of funding will go to regional projects, with the remaining funds used for statewide projects, he said.
An “interstate quality” characteristic of the highway falls short of an actual “interstate highway” designation, but allows county developers to respond positively to corporate inquiries about the area’s highway standards, Pitt County Economic Development Commission President Wanda Yuhas said.
“Having this highway has tremendous implications for our opportunities with companies,” Yuhas said.