The construction timeline for the proposed U.S. 70 bypass around Havelock could change based on the project’s ranking in a new N.C. Department of Transportation prioritization formula.
Construction of the bypass had been scheduled for after July 1, 2015, making it subject to a new transportation law that was approved last year, said Don Voelker, the state’s director of the Strategic Prioritization Office of Transportation.
“There are nearly 1,400 highway projects in the current database, Havelock bypass being one of them, that need to be scored using the new criteria, weights and measures, and that is under way as we are speaking,” Voelker said.
After that, any proposed new road projects are to be scored and compared against projects already on the books, creating an overall ranking that is to be released in May, Voelker said.
The new state law has three project categories — statewide mobility, regional impact and division needs — and Voelker said the Havelock bypass could be funded under each of the categories.
“A statewide eligible project really has three bites at the apple, so to speak,” Voelker said.
Under the statewide mobility category, 30 percent of the score is based on travel-time savings achieved over a 30-year period divided by the cost to DOT to build the project. Another 30 percent is congestion, based on a volume-to-capacity ratio. Ten percent is economic competitiveness, calculated in terms of the change in domestic product that is expected. Another ten percent is safety, calculated based on the number of crashes. The remaining 20 percent is multi-modal freight and military usage.
“All the scores will be 100 percent data driven,” Voelker said.
Under the regional impact category, 70 percent of the score is data driven, including 20 percent for benefit/cost, 25 percent safety and 25 percent multi-modal freight and military. The remaining 30 percent is local input divided between the division engineer and the local metropolitan/rural planning organization.
Under the division needs category, 50 percent is based on data including 20 percent for congestion, 20 percent for safety and 10 percent multi-modal freight/military. The remaining 50 percent is divided equally between the division engineer and the local metropolitan/rural planning organization.
Voelker said state engineers and local planning organizations would spend May, June and July assessing the data and deciding on their portion of the prioritization.
Because the regional impact and division needs categories are so impacted by the opinions of division engineers and planning organizations, Voelker said it would be in the interest of Havelock leaders to have the ear of both. The Down East Rural Planning Organization, which includes Craven, Jones, Carteret, Pamlico and Onslow counties, represents Havelock.
“The division engineer and the local metropolitan planning organizations or rural planning organization folks should be communicating closely with each other to ensure that they give maximum favorable weight to those high priority projects in their area,” Voelker said.
In September, Voelker said the state would have the final scores and develop a five-year work plan listing road projects beginning in July 1, 2015. The date for construction of the Havelock bypass, originally set for fiscal year 2015, could be pushed up, remain the same or pushed back depending on its score compared to other projects.
A U.S. 70 bypass around Havelock has been in the planning stages since at least 1977. The current estimated cost is $183.4 million.
The final Environmental Impact Statement for the project is due to be released this summer. There are an estimated 16 households and two businesses that would have to be relocated for the 10-mile preferred alternative route. More than 100 acres of wetland are being mitigated for the four-lane divided highway, which will run from just west of Hickman Hills near the Craven County recycling center in front of the old Havelock Building supply store to east of Havelock.