Changes in transportation planning
by Brian Carlton
Lincoln County’s growth spurt over the last 10 years will pay off with added transportation resources. That’s the feeling of county officials, as census data dictates some changes to transportation planning.
State and federal funding for road projects goes to N.C. Department of Transportation divisions, which in turn give local boards the authority to determine which projects get priority. As a result of the 2010 census, Denver became part of the larger Charlotte area, putting it in the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization along with portions of unincorporated Iredell County, the towns of Mooresville, Troutman, Statesville and the Union County town of Marshville.
“The move into MUMPO opens up a wealth of resources the county hasn’t had access to in the past,” Lincoln County planner Andrew Bryant said. “(Large groups) like this have more funds at their disposal. They can get into details of a project, whereas in the past we haven’t been able to. They can get into preliminary design, detailing cross-sections and where intersections will be located.”
While the shift increases the prospects for Lincoln County, some of the other towns have concerns, including the question of how projects will be ranked for funding. The MUMPO region already has more than 300 projects listed and funding for less than half of those. Each new town brings in a list of projects.
“The initial combining of the (project list) will be the hardest,” MUMPO Secretary Bob Cook said. “You have projects already ongoing that have to be sequenced in. There are a number of tasks we’ll have to undertake to bring in the new communities. I think we have a lot of issues to work through.”
That won’t be a problem for eastern Lincoln County, Bryant said, as there aren’t any major road projects currently being planned for Denver.
“We actually don’t have any projects prioritized in that area that will go into MUMPO,” Bryant said. “The expectations don’t change when we go in there. We still have the expectation of getting some improvements done to N.C. 73 and N.C. 150 down the line.”
One thing that will change for eastern Lincoln County will be the yearly fee to belong to the organization.
MUMPO collects a total of $150,000 from the cities and towns, which goes to pay the group’s salaries and operating cost. With the changes, there’s a question if that should increase to pay for additional staff. That cost is split up based on the work done in each county.
The Federal Highway Administration has set a deadline of March 27, 2013, for the changes to MUMPO to be complete.
As the MUMPO committee moves forward with planning, members representing the new areas will be invited to take part. MUMPO members voted July 18 to allow one representative each for unincorporated Iredell and Lincoln counties, along with one person to represent all of the towns involved.