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NC House halts work on I-73/74 Welcome Centers in Randolph County

This past Wednesday, the NC House unanimously approved a bill that halts construction of two highway welcome centers in Randolph County along Interstate 73/74. Construction can only proceed after officials from the Department of Commerce and the DOT consult with the legislature.

The bill also requires both agencies to get a legislative committee's approval before building any future welcome centers.

The I-73/74 rest area's were originally slated to be 'visitor centers'. Visitor centers are operated by local counties promoting their own region. However, over time the visitor centers were promoted to Welcome Centers which are staffed and paid for by the state. Both welcome centers would cost the state $180,000 each to operate.

It appears that miscommunication between the NCDOT and the Department of Commerce led to the rest stops becoming full blown welcome centers. The DOT claims that Commerce insisted on the two rest areas becoming Welcome Centers. The Commerce Department says that they wish they were informed of the intention to make the rest areas visitor centers. The Commerce Department believes that all centers on highways should be welcome centers so that a consistency of services and message be shown throughout the state.

Story:
Welcome centers construction frozen

See Also:
I-73/74 Welcome Centers nixed


Commentary:
And that's why the legislature stepped in. If the Commerce Department wants all "highway visitor centers" to be upgraded to a Welcome Center, the state would have to increase spending to operate the facilities. It was suggested in a transportation forum, that the original intention to build the rest areas as visitor centers was the right approach. And I agree, Randolph and neighboring counties can easily pool resources to operate and maintain the visitor center and hire a staff or support local volunteers interested in promoting their community.

Allowing the two rest areas to be "visitor centers", does accomplish a constant message of promoting North Carolina. The only difference is that is has a more local approach and staffed by individuals that are proud to promote their home. And it also stays out of the state budget.

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