Widened US 64 edges closer to reality
By Ray McClees
Three events in late June could advance the prospects that 28 miles of US 64 between Columbia and Manns Harbor will be widened to four lanes and thus complete the multilane highway from Raleigh to the Atlantic Ocean.
First, a new rail-truck facility will be built in Edgecombe County to help industry get products to customers and spur growth in the region, officials with the NC Department of Transportation announced June 28.
The facility, known as the Carolina Connector (CCX), will be built on the CSX mainline, and CSX will run it. The 330-acre site, north of Rocky Mount and east of the North Carolina Wesleyan College campus, will allow trucks to bring cargo containers to a rail yard where they will be transferred to trains for transport.
NCDOT will invest up to $118.1 million for site development and roadway construction. The agency estimates the rail yard will have an indirect job impact of up to 1,300 jobs.
“This facility will make eastern North Carolina even more attractive to businesses looking to grow by offering a logistical solution to industry shipping challenges,” said NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon.
Site development work is expected to begin soon with an anticipated completion date of 2020.
The project was scored and evaluated under North Carolina’s data-driven process that allows NCDOT to enhance the state’s infrastructure.
Second, retired Gen. Hugh Overholt, a New Bern government relations attorney, on June 28 became the state transportation board’s at-large member for rural transportation. The retired U.S. Army major general previously represented Division 2 on the board.
“The board of transportation is required to have one at-large member who is a person residing in a rural area of North Carolina with broad knowledge and experience in transportation issues affecting rural areas,” said Jamie Kritzer, assistant director of communications at NCDOT. “The area he’s from is considered rural since it’s not a major metropolitan area like Charlotte or Raleigh.”
Third, John Rouse, eastern deputy chief engineer at NCDOT, reviewed the recently enacted Build NC Bond Act for the directors of the Highway 17/64 Association, who met in Williamston on June 27.
“If these bond funds are made available by the end of the year, they may allow us to fund more projects in the 2019-2028 State Transportation Improvement Program,” said Angela Welsh, director of the Albemarle Rural Planning Organization based in Hertford.
Taking top priority among the association’s seven objectives is “partnering with federal, state, regional and local stakeholders who share an interest in the timely completion of a controlled access, four-lane US 17 from South Carolina to Virginia and a controlled access four-lane US 64 from Raleigh to Manteo.”
Current emphasis is on advocating for the timely funding and construction of Interstate 87 that will track US 64 from Raleigh to Williamston and US 17 from Williamston to Hampton Roads.
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