By Joe Milazzo II
Regional Transportation Alliance
Last year our region launched a second transatlantic flight and passed dedicated funding for a bold and flexible transit plan in our region's largest county. In 2017, the Regional Transportation Alliance will focus on accelerating 540, funding the RDU Master Plan, and creating a FAST Mobility Fund, along with advancing the other priorities listed below.
Top Priority: Accelerate 540
The regional business community's top priority will be to accelerate the construction of 540 in southern Wake County to I-40. The draft state TIP was released last week, and it contained both good and challenging news for 540, with some segments accelerated to 2020 and other portions delayed to 2020.
For more information about 540, read NCDOT's response to a letter we wrote last spring in cooperation with the Southern Environmental Law Center regarding anticipated costs, revenues, and time savings associated with the proposed freeway.
Fund RDU Master Plan
RDU has created a solid Master Plan for the next 25 years to guide the growth of our hometown international airport—now we need to fund that plan to complete essential improvements including reconstructing our primary runway.
As RDU CEO Mike Landguth says, "Air service development is economic development," and nearly 50 nonstop flights, including two daily transatlantic flights, provide essential connections for commerce and tourism. If we want to continue that momentum for our growing region, RDU needs to grow right along with us, and that will require a sustainable funding mechanism.
Create a FAST Mobility Fund to Accelerate Simpler Improvements
As I mentioned during our annual meeting last month, we are seeking a faster way to fund lower cost projects. A "FAST" mobility fund would focus on accelerating smaller projects to provide congestion relief in a timely manner.
The Strategic Transportation Investments law has removed politics from transportation prioritization, and that has advanced a number of major projects for our region and state. A FAST mobility fund (or similar) would complement the success of STI for smaller projects, such as advancing potential rapid intersection improvements to the Multimodal 54 corridor between I-40 and Chapel Hill and various roads and streets regionwide.
Other Focuses of the Regional Business Community
We heard three terrific presentations on the future of mobility at our annual meeting last month—if you want to relive them, you can download them here. In 2017 we will continue to support solutions that will move our region forward and improve our multimodal future:
- We will push for a successful launch this year of North Carolina's first on-ramp signal system on 540 westbound on-ramps in North Raleigh.
- We will lobby to advance a pilot express shoulder lane on 540 in North Raleigh. This project scored well in prioritization and we will push to refine, fund, and accelerate it.
- We will focus on advancing enhanced regional transit with a terrific customer experience to maximize our community's investment. Areas of focus include the creation of an enhanced frequent network, five new bus rapid transit lines, regional commuter rail between Durham and Raleigh and accelerating the Durham-Orange transit corridor between Durham and Chapel Hill.
2017: Another Vital Year for Mobility
We have had a great story to tell since 2002, and with the help of our current members and new investors we will continue to move the region forward.
See the full RTA 2017 Action Plan here.