Gov. McCrory talks transportation with business leaders

McCrory says improvements to transportation in our state are blocked by the political gridlock in Washington.
March 26, 2014 6:14:04 PM PDT
Gov. Pat McCrory said improvements to transportation in our state are being blocked by the political gridlock in Washington.

The governor delivered that message Wednesday while speaking to business leaders in Durham County.

He struck two different chords with business leaders. On one hand, the governor reassured them that the state is hearing their calls to reinvest in transportation, but he also sounded the alarms that federal transportation dollars are in danger.

The governor's office has seen the new study from the Chamber of Commerce which warned that traffic congestion across the Triangle could choke off economic development and job growth.

The McCrory administration says it's working on a fix.

"We've got to eliminate congestion. We've got to increase connectivity," said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. "We've got to reduce travel time so that people can get to job centers."

Tata says 108 road projects are in the works across the state. Many of them are aimed at connecting rural areas, where job growth is anemically slow, with urban job centers like Raleigh that are growing dramatically.

However, the governor warned those projects and more down the pike are in danger if lawmakers in Washington don't reauthorize a federal transportation bill. In North Carolina alone,15,000 jobs on the line.

"The business community has got to step up and get Congress unparalyzed up there because we're hitting a deadline in October," said McCrory.

Another big part of the discussion about how North Carolinians get from home to work is focused on trains.

While Orange and Durham counties move forward with Triangle Transit's light rail project, Wake County commissioners have balked at the proposed transit tax to help pay for it.

The state is working on its own rail plan.

"It looks at freight and it looks at passenger," said Paul Worley, with the DOT's Rail Division. "It looks at the different kinds of passenger rail that may share a rail corridor."

That would mean like the rails that parallel U.S. Highway 70.

Tata mentioned early talks and studies for a commuter train line from Wake to Johnston counties.

"We're in discussions on a proposal that we have from Smithfield to Raleigh as a commuter rail to give people options away from congestion," said Tata.

The commuter rail talks are in the very early stages. However, Tata mentioned them as a possible way to help relieve some of the traffic congestion next year when the Crawleigh road project really heats up.

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