Cary News

CAMPO awards $12 million for transportation projects in western Wake County

Cary, Apex, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina won millions of dollars in grants Wednesday to fund upcoming road construction projects.

The four towns received nearly $12 million of the $21.8 million distributed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is in charge of helping coordinate and fund large transportation projects in Wake County. It distributes federal money to towns based on a scoring rubric.

Fuquay-Varina was the big winner, receiving $5.3 million to fund three different projects that the town had been planning to pay for by increasing property taxes. Voters approved that plan in November, passing a bond referendum that included $21 million worth of roadwork.

A tax increase likely will still be needed to make up the difference, but it will be significantly smaller now. Mayor John Byrne said the grant is “a huge deal” and could shave off about 2 cents of the property tax increase that initially had been proposed as 6.75 cents per $100 in valuation. The current tax rate is 38.5 cents, the second lowest in Wake County.

Last year, Fuquay-Varina tried to get another federal grant for $10 million, sending officials to Washington to lobby for the funds. But the town wasn’t awarded the funds.

Officials said they’re excited CAMPO awarded the town more than half that amount.

“It’s the biggest grant we’ve ever gotten, and it comes at a critical time,” Byrne said.

Apex received $2.5 million to help with the completion of the Apex Peakway loop around the center of town. In November, voters passed a $15 million bond referendum to fund that project.

And while the bond required no tax increase, the town has considered issuing another bond soon to pay for its new Pleasant Park – a plan that officials have said could require a tax increase.

It’s unclear what this grant may mean for the tax impact of a parks bond in the future, though. The parks bond has not officially been proposed.

Cary received $2 million to fill a .4-mile gap in its White Oak Creek Greenway, which will one day run from the American Tobacco Trail to Bond Park. The new segment will connect MacArthur and Davis drives. While it is short, it will be expensive because it will require a tunnel to run underneath a CSX rail line.

“We’re excited about it,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “That’s a nice link that’s missing in the White Oak Creek Greenway and just adds to our 82 miles of greenway.”

The other remaining gap in the greenway is a 2-mile section from Green Level Church Road to the American Tobacco Trail. It is expected to be filled by 2018. Both segments are expected to cost a combined $9 million, including design and construction. Some funding is already in place through the 2012 bond referendum and other federal and county grants.

Holly Springs received $1.2 million for work on the N.C. 55 near the new Holly Springs Salamanders baseball stadium at the North Main Athletic Complex, as well as $580,000 for greenway projects near the library and along N.C. 55, between the Target shopping center and Avent Ferry Road.

The N.C. 55 road project will help relieve congestion on N.C. 55, Holly Springs Road and Main Street.

“What that will do is open up the park to traffic off of (N.C.) 55 Bypass and also provide a cut-through for those who want to go from the bypass to Main Street on Sportsmanship Way,” Mayor Dick Sears said.

CAMPO announced the winning projects on Twitter late Wednesday, although many of the local towns have been expecting to receive the grants for some time, based on their strong scores on the organization’s grading rubric. Towns in the area will be able to start applying for next year’s grants in August.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran