SOUTHEASTERN, N.C.—With hundreds of proposed transportation projects on the table, which ones in the Cape Fear area will get NCDOT funding?
The Cape Fear Area Rural Transportation Planning Organization (RPO) met Wednesday to assign the highest priority to transportation projects the group found to be the most competitive. The Cape Fear RPO, founded in 2001, handles transportation projects — including roads, rail travel, ferries, and aviation — in the rural area outside of Wilmington, including Brunswick, Columbus and Pender County.
Projects that earned the highest priority points include: adding another vessel to the Ft. Fisher-Southport ferry system for $14 million, converting the US 74/76 intersection at Maco Road in Leland to a full highway interchange for nearly $12 million, and constructing a roundabout in Surf City connecting NC-210 and Watts Landing Road for over $2 million.
With billions at stake, the Cape Fear region’s RPO is vying for funds against dozens of other transportation planning organizations across the state. With hundreds of projects to choose from, the North Carolina Department of Transportation must assign priority through a lengthy process.
“They run out of money pretty quickly,” Allen Serkin, Director of Local Government Services for the Cape Fear Council of Governments, said.
Serkin leads the RPO in assigning priority to regional projects with the highest likelihood of receiving state funding.
“In order for a project to get funded, we like to think of it as a three-legged stool,” Serkin said. “If any of the legs are missing then the stool can’t stand up”
Projects are given a quantitative score from the NCDOT and points are assigned by local planning organizations and area NCDOT divisions. “Without all three of those it’s almost impossible for a project to get funded,” Serkin said.
On Wednesday, Cape Fear’s RPO assigned points to several area projects. On July 13, the projects move on to the RPO’s Transportation Advisory Committee for final point assignments. Though the projects won’t be officially confirmed for funding until December 2019, they could be all but approved this coming August.
“It’s not final but it might as well be,” Serkin said. “Barring some special circumstance, they are legally required by the statutes to fund the highest scoring projects first.”
The top projects
Though there were 45 projects on the table, Cape Fear’s RPO only assigned points to 18. The highest priority projects in southeastern North Carolina include:
- An additional ferry vessel to the Southport-Ft. Fisher ferry route: This project was identified as the region’s highest non-highway priority. A new vessel would offset expected passenger congestion currently shared between two ferries at the Southport-Ft. Fisher terminals. Acquiring an additional vessel would cost the NCDOT $14 million.
- Convert the existing intersection of US-74/76 and Maco Road in Leland to a full highway interchange: This proposal was identified as the highest priority highway project in Brunswick County. It would cost the NCDOT $20 million to complete.
- Construct added mooring facilities to accommodate three ferry vessels at Southport-Ft. Fisher facilities: Contingent upon the state funding an added ferry to the Southport-Ft. Fisher system, Cape Fear’s RPO assigned this project as the second highest non-highway priority. The construction would cost the NCDOT $5 million.
- Construct a one-lane roundabout at the intersection of NC-210 at Watts Landing Road near Surf City: A few miles from the NCDOT’s $53 million Topsail Island Bridge Replacement project, this additional roundabout could address what Serkin called a “major chokepoint” in the Pender County area. This project was identified as Pender County’s highest highway priority project. It would cost NCDOT $2.1 million
For a full list of potential projects, visit Cape Fear Rural Transportation Planning Organization’s website.
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