The Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce held a transportation education session regarding the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s inconsistencies in its process of planning and ranking highway projects . The Chamber also released its I-74 Economic Impact Study which shows that I-74 is the best opportunity for the state to capitalize on the over two billion dollars in economic activity and the 33,000 new jobs that the completion of I-74 will create.
Previously, the NCDOT was negligent in conducting its environmental impact analysis of the road, resulting in lawsuits that delayed the construction for more than 10 years, leaving more than 200 households and businesses in limbo, unable to sell or improve their properties. The funds allocated for I-74 went to other communities like Greensboro and Fayetteville for their urban loops.
As it stands, the DOT’s strategic plan and its funding model for transportation projects do not correlate with one another. The DOT’s strategic plan for transportation ranks I-74 in the top 10 projects, but the DOT’s transportation funding plan ranks in near the bottom of 1500 projects. The funding plan ranking is low because the State’s formula significantly discounts the economic impact of I-74 to the state and unfairly penalizes the project by making total project cost the most important factor in ranking projects.
“The projects that NCDOT is telling us are the most important for our state, should be the projects ranked highest on the funding list,” said Gayle Anderson, the president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Chamber. “NCDOT has said that they know the funding formula process is flawed, but they are refusing to do anything about it for at least two years, which would further delay forward progress for I-74,” she added.
To further muddy the waters, some NCDOT documents refer to I-74 as the “Northern Beltway,” which implies that the project has only regional impact, something that significantly affects how much funding the project can receive from the state. Projects listed in the state category receive higher funding than those that fall in the regional and division categories.
“We can no longer sit quietly while NCDOT overlooks Forsyth County,” says Gayle Anderson, president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. “I-74 is the only unfinished Interstate in North Carolina, and we are working with our elected officials and business leaders to rectify this disservice to the citizens of Forsyth County, the Triad, and the State,” she added.