Tata talks road financing at Morrisville town forum

aramos@newsobserver.comMarch 13, 2014 

— Congestion and safety ranked at the top of residents’ concerns during Thursday’s town hall forum with N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata.

Having Tata in Morrisville was a coup for a town whose borders are flooded during rush hour as more than 10,000 commuters drive from Cary to Research Triangle Park. Morrisville leaders are ramping up their efforts to get lawmakers to heed their cry for help and get real solutions to a longtime problem.

“Morrisville is the heart and artery of the Triangle and our vessels are clogged and congested,” said Councilman Steve Rao before a crowd of about 50 at Morrisville Fire Station 1. “We need a triple bypass.”

With Wake Technical Community College slated to open on Paramount Parkway near N.C. 540 and draw up to 7,000 students when all four phases are complete, the roads are just going to get worse, Rao said.

“We’re unique. We’re not like Fuquay-Varina or Knightdale. We have 14,000 people going through our town a day,” he said. “It’s a safety concern. What are things we can do to advance our projects?”

About a dozen road projects are currently working through the state’s new scoring process for transportation funding. The scoring for older projects are expected to be done by the beginning of April and funding results will be released in the fall, Tata said.

“I drive these roads frequently,” said Tata who lives in Cary. “I understand the challenges.”

Among the projects under consideration are Aviation Parkway, Airport Boulevard, N.C. 54, McCrimmon Parkway and Morrisville-Carpenter Road.

“I think your projects will score well on the statewide tier,” Tata said.

Providing at least partial funding is the best way to a green light on a DOT project, he said.

“Public-private partnerships are the funding of the future,” Tata said.

Two major projects on the horizon is the $16 million Morrisville Parkway grade separation and $14 million Hopson Road grade separation. Both will require building new railroad bridges to achieve grade separation – a term used for constructing different levels of transport so that one does not impede traffic on the other.

The Morrisville Parkway work will mean a 6- to 8-months of road closures likely to start in February 2016, according to DOT engineer J.W. Bowman.

Bowman assured residents that public notices would be sent out in advance of the closures, detours would have proper signage, and upgrades to side roads would be provided.

Morrisville resident Heidi Warner wasn’t convinced.

“There are going to be quite a number of projects affecting Morrisville in the next few years,” Warner said. “I’m concerned about the Morrisville Parkway closure and Hopson Road bridge, and the impact it’s going to have – that there’s going to be too many road closures and not enough ways to get around.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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