At Monday night’s City Council workshop, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) discussed the delay of many road projects in Greenville.
Division Engineer for NCDOT Preston Hunter, said road projects can increase in cost if another separate project may be beneficial to an area. He said a project for turn lanes can increase from half a million to $1 million to $2 million if it's decided that it would be better to have a roundabout in that area. If an interchange would be better in the said area it could increase to 50 million, he said.
An example of a project increasing in cost in Greenville is when Fire Tower Road stopped at Highway 44, Hunter said. NCDOT realized the intersection was going to fail so the project had to be expanded and improvements had to be made on Arlington Boulevard.
“We saw that across the state. Projects that initially were smaller started so grow into bigger projects so that increased costs,” Hunter said.
Hunter said an acre in Greenville costs more than an acre in Trenton, North Carolina. The original estimate on Evans Street in 2018 was $32 million and the most recent estimate was $47 million due to the cost of inflation for construction, Hunter said.
“By state law, we cannot drop below our cash floor 7.5 percent of our state revenue which is right now roughly around $282 million plus or minus. If we fall below that cash floor, (NCDOT) cannot award or enter any contractual agreement for anybody or anything. So when I say we’re broke, we ain’t actually broke,” Hunter said.
The Map Act was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1987 for different projects for its homeowner's property, but 25 years later, roads would end up not being built, Hunter said. He said the homeowners’ filed a lawsuit and the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled damages.
As of August 2019, it was ruled $300 million in right of way cost for the Map Act lawsuit, Hunter said. The current estimates are that after it is settled the lawsuit will cost around one billion dollars, he said.
Another issue that impacts NCDOT’s cash balance is Disaster/Storm Recovery, Hunter said. FEMA only reimburses 75 percent of the total cost of damages. It takes FEMA two to five years to reimburse organizations. Only 50 percent reimbursement has come in from Hurricane Matthew, Hunter said.
Mayor PJ Connelly raised concerns about NCDOT’s cash problem during the workshop. Hunter said NCDOT has seen this cash problem coming for a while.
Jeff Cabaniss, division project development engineer said NCDOT is working on getting US 264 up to interstate standards. The project would start at the hospital interchange to the Greene/ Wilson line, he said.
Cabaniss said construction on Dickinson Avenue got moved back when NCDOT began having a funding issue. The project got pushed back three years, and it has an expected start date of 2022. Due to the bad pavement, he said NCDOT does look at resurfacing the road before it can be fixed.
District 5 City Council member Will Litchfield raised concerns about traffic and road issues in Greenville. He said Greenville Boulevard to Firetower Road on Evans Street has bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour because there is only one stoplight in between.
“I can’t speak for the whole city council, but I can speak for myself, one of the biggest things we hear is the street conditions along with the traffic issue, especially with Evans,” Litchfield said.
Mayor PJ Connelly said the NCDOT laid asphalt on Dickinson Avenue because the road did serious damage to cars.
Connelly said Dickinson Avenue has been repeatedly patched and is one of the “biggest” projects in Greenville. He said he hopes the state understands the importance of the project and local representatives will push to fund the project.
The project on Evans Street/Old Tar Road was originally included in the fiscal year 2015-2025. The project was accelerated in the State Transportation Improvement Program of 2018-2027 and is expected to begin in the fiscal year 2020 and construction will begin 2021, Hunter said.