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ChiefJoJo

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ChiefJoJo    0

I have seen several topics that have included NCDOT, with several questions about why certain things are done. Since I work there and live in DT Raleigh, i feel that I have a pretty good feel for both the issues that are important to people on this board and how DOT works. While I'll admit that DOT isn't the most forward thinking and efficient organization, there are a lot of misconceptions about the dept. that perhaps I could address here.

FYI, I will be in Scotland from 3/9 - 3/20 :w00t: , but I will try to answer as many questions/concerns as I can.

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JunktionFET    0

Why is there an obsession with loop freeways? I realize that because of certain developments that already exist a loop or bypass (like the existing part of I-540) is necessary.

But why blast through these smaller cities with loops--like Fayetteville, northern Winston, northern Greensboro, etc? Is it solely for the purpose of generating "economic development"? Are the planners aware that this basically opens the door for more of the same exurban sprawl--generating more problems, dropping property values towards the core areas, etc.

I realize that a certain piece of legislation has a lot to do with it--the one where no one in NC should be more than 10 miles from a freeway, or whatever it was.

Any insight into the loop freeway thing? :)

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monsoon    0

ChiefJoJo, thanks for the kind offer. (I hope we don't overwhelm you :) )

I guess I will start and ask why the NEW roads in the Charlotte area are in such bad shape? In driving down the just opened I-77 North of the city the road is anything but smooth. There are dips, bumps and it generally is not smooth at all. I am not talking about the unfinished part near I-85, but the part that seems to be finished. Did they not hold the vendor to some sort of smoothness test?

I find this seems to be the case for most of the new road projects in the Charlotte area. A quick comparison can be made by crossing the state line into South Carolina on I-77 and the difference is immediately noticible. Any thoughts you can provide would be appreciated.

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I would like to know why all the money and time was invested into redoing the I-77/I-85 interchange, when the new interchange will still go down to only one lane for merging? It would seem to me that due to the volume of traffic for both now and the future the DOT would have wanted to expand the size of the interchange as well.

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"But why blast through these smaller cities with loops--like Fayetteville, northern Winston, northern Greensboro, etc? Is it solely for the purpose of generating "economic development"? Are the planners aware that this basically opens the door for more of the same exurban sprawl--generating more problems, dropping property values towards the core areas, etc."

I think Winston needs a loop. US 52's (Future I-285) accident rate is extremely high and above the national average. The Triad area in general is an up and coming distribution hub. With I-85, I-40, US 52, 220, 68, 421 and the Future I-73 & 74, the area needs something to divert truck traffic especially with the constuction of Dell in Winston, and the Fedex Cargo Hub at PTIA. The Piedmont Triad Metro area has 1.5 million people (according to PART's website), urban loops are very much needed, and have been put off long enough.

Sprawl is a problem for every city, including Raleigh and Charlotte. 485 in Charlotte...for example currently has few gas stations along this loop, but in 5 years, the area will be developed only adding more sprawl...same goes for 540 in Raleigh and the future development along this corridor. Mass transit systems only work if they are easy accessible, all of NC's largest cities are mostly single family housing (with a few exempt area's)...requiring park and ride stations to be built in certain areas. Most people will not be willing to give up the convience of personal transportation, if there are only a few destinations the mass transit systems will take you. Most people don't just travel to work and back...you travel to work, by the school the pick up the kids, take the books back to the library, and to the local grocery store or to a restuarant, pick up dinner then go home. Mass Transit will take off some pressue, but not enough, therefore, thru-traffic and industrial transportation must be diverted away from center city.

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ChiefJoJo    0

Why is there an obsession with loop freeways?

It has to do with the funding formulas that were set forth during the late 80s (when many loop projects were being planned). The funding was set aside so that urban areas would get a certain allocation for loops and the rest of the state would benefit from the improvement of the so called intrastate system. This was established by the legislature as a measure to satisfy congestion requirements (urban loops) and economic development (intrastate system miles).

One think you have to realize is that many of our legislators are not necessarily interested in walkable communities and urban renewal, especially during the late 80s, when this was enacted. Many in the eastern rural areas are more interested in economic development than congestion. You must also understand that that it takes 20+ years often to take a project from concept to construction, due to the coplexity of todays environmenal laws and planning process, so freeways that were planned then are just being built now. The bottom line is that at that time, nobody really forsaw the kind of growth that would eventually take place in the piedmont of NC during the 90s and 00s. Certainly the idea of an LRT would have been laughable at that time, but now we are seeing that view was shortsighted.

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ChiefJoJo    0
Sprawl is a problem for every city, including Raleigh and Charlotte.
That's another reason why we have loops. Land use is as much of if not moreso the problem in NC as compared to transportation. NCDOT has ZERO control over local land use. Many cities in NC have land use plans, but they have no teeth. It amounts to local guidance at best, as all it takes is a developer to come along and take some interest in a parcel of land and as long as the governing body (city council or co. commissioners) approves it, there's not a whole lot for DOT to do. Local governing bodies should exercize more control, but there is a lot of $$$ at stake and political pressure from developers. I believe there are plenty of examples that I could list: Wakefield, The Paramount (in DT Raleigh), etc.

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ChiefJoJo    0

I would like to know why all the money and time was invested into redoing the I-77/I-85 interchange, when the new interchange will still go down to only one lane for merging? It would seem to me that due to the volume of traffic for both now and the future the DOT would have wanted to expand the size of the interchange as well.

Probably due to funding constraints. That interchange handles more traffic than any in the state I think, but the cost of rebuilding would be enormous, and as I said above, there is simply not enough money to do all we want. In fact there is a about a $30 billion shortfall in the transportation system needs of NC over the next 25 years. :o New funding sources will be required in the near future. Guess what? Tolls are coming to NC!

Check this out: The Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan

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orulz    106

Thanks for the offer to answer our questions! I have quite a few... okay here goes:

How can you tell who maintains what road? Not all roads in the state are maintained by NCDOT, right? There are some roads maintained by the cities, some by the counties, and some privately. Any other classifications? I think I heard somewhere that the cities have no jurisdiction over state roads, so stoplights on state roads can't be hooked up to the city's traffic control computer. Is this true? Who decides what road gets repaved or widened when?

Secondly, where does the money for building and maintaining roads come from? I'm a big supporter of passenger rail, but one of the arguments I'm always confronted with is "Trains need subsidies; roads don't. Roads are 100% paid for by user fees - the gas tax." Somehow that statement seems fishy, but is it really true? Or does a certain amount of money come from the "miscellaneous" secition of the federal/state/city/county budget? And, who collects the gas tax, and how is it divided among the different entities that build and maintain roads?

Sorry for so many questions; please feel free to condense your response however you see fit.

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capitalapts    0

Very nice of you to offer this thread.

Here's my question: in other (major) metropolitan areas, interstates/beltways and other high speed, high traffic roadways are lit with sodium vapor (or other) lighting. It's a safety thing, as best I can tell, and it definitely makes a big difference, particularly in bad weather.

I-40 can be a dark stretch of road, as can the beltline. Why doesn't NCDOT have lighting along these roads? I guess my question is triangle-specific as I haven't been to Charlotte at night much.

Thanks!

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JunktionFET    0

Guess what?  Tolls are coming to NC!

Good, I think that tolls should be used on I-95 especially. If a part of the EZPass network, perhaps NC citizens could be tolled at a lower rate--I'm sure that would make the idea more receptive.

Another option would be toll I-95 with a flat rate, then identify the sections that NC citizens use more frequently, and build/upgrade existing roads between to fill that role--reducing local reliance on I-95.

Are they still thinking of building a toll road between I-40 at the Durham Freeway and I-540? What about the two proposed US74 toll roads in Charlotte (to Gastonia and to Monroe)?

Heh, you've been bombarded with questions! Thanks for trying to answer them all!

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JunktionFET    0

I guess my question is triangle-specific as I haven't been to Charlotte at night much.

Charlotte freeways are great at night, much of I-77, I-85, and I-277 are lit at night and it really helps. I-85 enjoys some nice lighting between Greensboro and Durham, and I think the new section of I-85 in Salisbury is lit. I'm certain the electrical bill doesn't go unnoticed, and I'm not sure who pays it. I'm guessing that in Charlotte's case, Charlotte pays a bit of it because the lights on I-85 start at the city-limit line.

The Triangle does have some very dark freeways and it is quite fatiguing. A dark freeway in a rural area is fine, but when you have lots of misaimed headlights coming at you on a busy multi-lane freeway in a metropolitan area, street lights are a necessity--your eyes aren't constantly having to adjust to such an extreme range of light input.

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NCtarheel    0

Well i think in 1989 NC passed a law that basically said that every citizen in NC should be no more than 10 miles from a four-lane highway, every urban area would have a loop and that they would spend little money on public transit. This is crap if you ask me. I challenge any politician to name one, just one, city that solved its transportation by building more frickin roads.

Question...why doesnt the DOT re-examine these policies? It clearly doesn't work...540 and 585 are only going to make sprawl worse...

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nyxmike    3

When will I-77 south of the city be widened, and will there be an HOV lane? Also, when will I-485 be widened from I-77 to Johnston (and will the ramp for Johnston Road be built?) or Rea Road? Traffic is only going get to worse on these roads in the future.

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norm21499    128

Why cant the stae put tolls on existing roads raher than building new roads and putting tolls on the new roads? I feel the state is trying to build too many highways and bypasses when they are not necessarily needed. There is barely enough money to fi the roads we have, let alone building MORE roads.

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Jerseyman4    0

A beltway is needed in the NW portion of Guilford County (Greensboro) because Battleground Ave (US 220) just cant handle current/future growing commuter traffic into downtown and in/around through city streets. The NW portion of the county has a lot of growth and there is money out there as well (neighborhoods off Battleground). Then theres NC 68 from I-40 to US 220 thats growing very rapidly as well. At least that will be helped by I-73 passing by and the beltway. I-73 and the Beltway will not be together north of I-40. Ill prob post back and repond to other cities of their needs for beltways.

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ChiefJoJo    0

How can you tell who maintains what road? Not all roads in the state are maintained by NCDOT, right? There are some roads maintained by the cities, some by the counties, and some privately.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Roads are either maintained by the city or state of NC--no county roads.

I think I heard somewhere that the cities have no jurisdiction over state roads, so stoplights on state roads can't be hooked up to the city's traffic control computer. Is this true?

Not sure where you heard that--not true.

Secondly, where does the money for building and maintaining roads come from?

Mostly from state and federal gas taxes, vehicle registration/inspection fees, and car sales taxes. So yes, it is a user supported system, in that funding is all related to selling or operating motor vehicles.

And, who collects the gas tax, and how is it divided among the different entities that build and maintain roads?

Federal and state govt. THe state taxes stay in NC, whereas 90% of the federal money generated through NC's fed gas tax stays in NC--the rest is distributed throughout the nation to other less populated areas. That's why NC is considered a "donor state."

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ChiefJoJo    0

Why doesn't NCDOT have lighting along these roads?

I'm not sure but if I had to guess, it would be $$$, or lack thereof. There has to be some criteria for whether to light a stretch of road, and I would guess that it has to do with % of traffic occurring at night/off peak hours. For example, I-85, being a major N-S interstate connecting Atl, Clt, Gso, Dur, Rich, etc. carries a higher % of its traffic at night versus a commuter highway like I-40, so that MAY be why. There simply isn't enough money to keep up with all the projects that people want. :(

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ChiefJoJo    0

Good, I think that tolls should be used on I-95 especially.
I think that idea has been looked at, but deemed infeasible at this point. Remember, it has long been a proud tradition in NC to NOT have toll roads, so this is a new development for us, but one that needs to be done.

Are they still thinking of building a toll road between I-40 at the Durham Freeway and I-540? What about the two proposed US74 toll roads in Charlotte (to Gastonia and to Monroe)?

Yes, Yes, and Yes! (also one in Wilmington)

Check this out for more info on tolls in NC.

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ChiefJoJo    0

Well i think in 1989 NC passed a law that basically said that every citizen in NC should be no more than 10 miles from a four-lane highway, every urban area would have a loop and that they would spend little money on public transit. This is crap if you ask me. I challenge any politician to name one, just one, city that solved its transportation by building more frickin roads.
Personally, I agree with you, but with transportation comes politics. As a staff person, i have no personal authority over the laws in the state, and until the laws are changed, we will continue to build them as prescibed by the general statues of NC. NCDOT enforces the laws/policies that are mandated by your representatives in state government. If you want change, start by getting involved in public policy debates and talk with your local representative in state govt.

why doesnt the DOT re-examine these policies? It clearly doesn't work...540 and 585 are only going to make sprawl worse...

I agree that sprawl will get worse, but try to look at the root of the problem. Some communities have placed a priority on dense land development and transit (Chapel Hill, and Charlotte to a lesser degree), but if there is no commitment from the community to do that, then what are we left with? Who actually allows the sprawling developments (many in Cary, Wakefield, Briar Creek, etc.)? It's not NCDOT's job to dictate local land use--and that is where it starts. If a community is not committed to transit, then it won't work, and more roads will have to be built to support sprawling growth.

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Chief, I just want to take a minute and thank you for coming on here and being so candid with us. Few people in your position would put themselves in a public forum to answer these questions. We appreciate your effort and responses.

Another thing I was wondering about, and I know this might be outside of DOT, you mentioned earlier about how roads that were planned in the 80s are being built now due to the approval process.

When I look at 485 this is obvious. Only two lanes for the Pineville section and far too many interchanges made this outerbelt a problem before it was even built. I was, and still am, in favor of the beltway, but I'd like to see a true outerbelt, a road designed to allow people that are traveling through, or needing to navigate to specific areas without much local traffic.

Since the planning for the outerbelt occured far before the rapid growth of the area, what is the process for reviewing and revising these plans before any asphalt is poured? It seems to me that anyone that had been in the Pineville area should have known what a problem that stretch was going to be before it was ever built, but perhaps the way the system is set up now it is hard to change a project once the wheels get set in motion.

The DOT will now need to go back and widen this stretch, which will cost more overall and take longer than if it had just been done the first time.

In your opinion, does the review/approval process need to be changed?

Again, thanks for your willingness to participate.

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ChiefJoJo    0

When will I-77 south of the city be widened, and will there be an HOV lane? Also, when will I-485 be widened from I-77 to Johnston (and will the ramp for Johnston Road be built?) or Rea Road? Traffic is only going get to worse on these roads in the future.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Not for a long time. The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in Charlotte has I-77 planned for completion between 2010 & 2020. Here's a link to the state 2004-2010 TIP.

Here's a link to Charlotte's MPO website: MUMPO They are currently developing the 2030 long range transportation plan for the area. I'd encourage you to get involved in the public involvement process.

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ChiefJoJo    0

Why cant the stae put tolls on existing roads raher than building new roads and putting tolls on the new roads? I feel the state is trying to build too many highways and bypasses when they are not necessarily needed. There is barely enough money to fi the roads we have, let alone building MORE roads.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Check the toll authority webpage for more info (a few posts ago). The reason come from the statute in NC state law.

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ChiefJoJo    0

Chief, I just want to take a minute and thank you for coming on here and being so candid with us. Few people in your position would put themselves in a public forum to answer these questions. We appreciate your effort and responses.
No problem. I am a member of the public, just like you, so I have many of the same concerns as you do. As far as my information--it's nothing that you can't find out by doing a little research.

Since the planning for the outerbelt occured far before the rapid growth of the area, what is the process for reviewing and revising these plans before any asphalt is poured? It seems to me that anyone that had been in the Pineville area should have known what a problem that stretch was going to be before it was ever built, but perhaps the way the system is set up now it is hard to change a project once the wheels get set in motion.

BINGO! Projects take many years from concept to constrution, and it can be a very long, arduous, and painstaking process. It's not impossible to make a change to a project in the middle of the process, but it's not very common to have a project change in scope from 4 to 6/8 lanes in the middle of project development due to cost overruns (it would likely cost 50-70% more for a wider road... and the money is just not there) I would guess that portion of 485 was planned in the early-mid 80s, so when you realize that, it's not difficult to imagine why there are not enough lanes out there now. The harsh reality is development occurs at a MUCH faster rate than transportation facilities can keep up with.

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