Johnston County should have an easier time winning state dollars for roads thanks to an upcoming transportation study covering Raleigh to Smithfield.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is undertaking a study of its southeastern quadrant, which encompasses southern Wake and western Johnston counties. The study will take 18 months to complete and cost an estimated $625,000, Johnston Planning Director Berry Gray said. Funding will come from CAMPO, the N.C. Department of Transportation and federal sources.
As its name implies, CAMPO’s jurisdiction centers on Raleigh and includes Wake and portions of surrounding counties. That purview does not stretch all the way to Smithfield, Gray said, but the group decided it made sense to stretch the limits of the study to Interstate 95.
In other words, all towns west of I-95 will take part in the study.
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Most of the attention will focus on congested or unsafe roadways and intersections, Gray said, but planners will also look at rail lines, bus routes and paths for walkers and bicyclists. The idea is to get ready for the next 30 years of growth in the 570-square-mile study area.
The process will begin in the next few weeks when all of the stakeholders – including DOT staff and representatives of town and county governments – come together for the first of many joint meetings. Once the study gets underway, residents will have opportunities to share their ideas and opinions during meetings and workshops.
Then the group will compile a list of “hot spots,” such as high-traffic roads or dangerous intersections, that the study will focus on. For Johnston, Gray said two main areas of concern are in the Cleveland community: the intersection of N.C. 42 and Cornwallis Road and large sections of Cleveland Road. Closer to Smithfield, Gray said, the county would like to see the intersection of Cleveland Road and N.C. 210 reworked for safety reasons.
Johnston has a countywide transportation plan in place, but the CAMPO study will provide much more detailed analysis, Gray said.
“We’ve identified projects before in our transportation plans, but this will be a much closer look at the problem areas,” he said. “We haven’t really ever seen that before in Johnston County.”
Gray said that in-depth info should help Johnston projects score higher in the new Strategic Transportation Investments rankings, which North Carolina began using in 2013 to decide which transportation projects get funding. The STI rankings rely mostly on data, so having more research completed should give Johnston an edge.
It took about a year to put together Johnston’s countywide plan, which deals largely with the county’s major thoroughfares, Smithfield Planning Director Paul Embler said. The CAMPO plan will provide another valuable perspective, Embler said, and the town will make the most of the opportunity to spend outside dollars.
“It will be beneficial for Smithfield to see how we fit into a regional context,” he said. “And any (planning information) I can get that I don’t have to pay for, it’s even better.”
CAMPO has divided its jurisdiction into quadrants, and the southeast area will be the third to go under the microscope. The group has already completed studies of its northeastern and southwestern sections.
Planning for growth to the southeast of Raleigh will answer important questions, said Eric Lamb, the City of Raleigh’s transportation-planning manager. In particular, he pointed to future development along Rock Quarry Road and the 540 Outer Loop.
Also, the area between Raleigh and Garner could become a part of the capital city in time, so its development has important consequences, Lamb said.
More broadly, long-range plans can be helpful because groups like CAMPO act as a referee among autonomous municipalities, he added.
“These types of large-scale area efforts can be really helpful for identifying where there are conflicts in the local plans,” Lamb said.
Alex Rickard, a senior transportation planner at CAMPO, said the group will set priorities for transportation projects based on its findings, a process that never is easy.
“That is something that every transportation planner can appreciate,” he said. “There are more transportation projects that are needed than there is money to go around.”
Reporter Sarah Barr contributed.