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Trip to NCDOT's 'I-95 Citizens Informational Workshop'

On Monday, August 23 I drove to Wilson to attend NCDOT's Informational Workshop for the 'Interstate 95 Corridor Planning and Finance Study' or 'Driving 95' project held from 4-7PM at the Ellis Convention Center. This meeting was one of 7 meetings held from mid to late August. The purpose according to NCDOT is 'to provide information regarding the proposed study and obtain public input' or as I heard one NCDOT official say, so that after we run our models to develop a plan, no one can say 'you screwed up by forgetting the problems at this or that interchange' in your plan.

NCDOT itself says it hasn't done a lot of work itself on the I-95 just, the displays and maps were presented by representatives of 2 contractors. It was this data presented by the contractors that NCDOT wanted feedback. One contractor had gone the length of I-95 and determined any problems at each interchange. They also looked at problems with I-95 itself between exits. They took traffic counts from which they determine a Level of Service Ranking (A-D, F) for today and produced a model for what the service rank would be in 2040 if no action were taken. For most, not surprisingly, the LOS in 2040 was ranked D or F. Another firm looked at the environmental factors and historic structures (those older than 50 years) within 1000' of each side of I-95 to determine what obstacles may be in the way of construction, or restrict the highway right-of-way. Ideally, NCDOT would like to use the median to add lanes to save money, but that may not be possible in some places. The ideal outcome for these studies and comments are segmented plans for the entire I-95 corridor. One stretch may need to be widened to 8 lanes requiring rebuilding not only the road but bridges, overpasses and interchanges within 5 years to avoid extreme congestion while another area may not have to be widened until 2025, and, for now may only need some curves to be straightened to increase sight distances. Separate EIS reports would be created for each segment to be submitted to the FHWA for approval. The more segments spread out over many years, the less money NCDOT would have to need annually for I-95 projects.

The meeting did bring up financing options for paying for all this. These included raising the state gas tax or registration fee, enacting a local sales tax, public-private partnerships, and tolls. Since they had a couple extra posters on tolls, you could sense that's where NCDOT is leaning as of now. The tolling would be completely electronic, like that being placed on the Triangle Expressway (NC 540) near Raleigh. They did say the were considering either open road tolling (which would allow some free travel if one gets on and off between toll facilities), or those placed at interchanges which would mean anyone getting off the highway would pay. This information session was for the first part of the project, they are planning two more steps that will include public involvement over the next 2 years. Click the Blog Entry title to link to NCDOT's official study website.

Other observations on the trip down and back:
New signs, they have put up new signs at the US 64/264 interchange that don't need to be lighted, but like with the Durham freeway, the replacement signs do not bother to correct mistakes or update information. Thus heading east on 264, one still comes to signs splitting traffic to East or West 64, no mention that 264 continues on 64 East.
I-795 repaving, since I got to Wilson before 4, I took a drive down I-795 to just over the Wilson County line. I wanted to see what progress there had been in repaving, due to be done by this fall. It appears to be ahead of schedule with all of the freeway I drove having new asphalt on it into Wayne county. Traffic in the first 10 miles southbound was restricted to the left lane, though construction was only occurring in a 1/4 mile stretch on the shoulder. The road was quite smooth in both directions, just shows you what NCDOT can accomplish when the job is done twice.
None of the overheads on US 264 or I-795 had been changed. Sorry I have no photos, it was raining on and off both down and back, so I decided not to bring the camera.

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