Providing at least partial funding is the best way for a community to move its transportation project higher on the state’s schedule, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata told a Morrisville town forum Thursday night.
“Public-private partnerships are the funding of the future,” he said.
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 efforts to be heard by state lawmakers and to find solutions to a longtime problem.
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“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 a western campus of 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 is expected to be done by the beginning of April, and funding results will be released in the fall, Tata said.
Two major projects on the horizon are the $16 million Morrisville Parkway grade separation and the $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.
Other 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.
The Morrisville Parkway project will result in lane closures for six to eight months, likely starting in February 2016, according to DOT engineer J.W. Bowman.
Morrisville resident Heidi Warner said she was worried upcoming projects will cause traffic problems.
“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.”
Tata, who lives in Cary, said he’s aware of what’s happening in Morrisville.
“I drive these roads frequently,” he said. “I understand the challenges.”