2017 has been a remarkable year for the Triangle’s mobility future.
What follows is a brief end-of-year summary on the top accomplishments of the RTA business coalition and the region. Some of these we initiated or led, while others we supported or highlighted. All were done in concert with our region’s elected and transportation partners.
RTA Top Three Priorities for 2017: A hat trick of success for America’s Most Forward-Moving Region
- RTA priority 1 – Accelerate 540: 540 accelerates as federal government approves final environmental document – eight months early
Last week the federal government joined NCDOT and the NC Turnpike Authority by signing the final environmental impact statement for the extension of 540 to Interstate 40 in southern Wake County. This approval occurred eight months early and sets the top priority of the regional business community up for a possible accelerated construction schedule.
- RTA priority 2 – Fund RDU Master Plan: More than $30m in annual recurring funds for RDU approved by NC legislature
Air service development is economic development. Our partners at RDU International have consistently made that case and we are pleased that the NC Legislature has provided significant funding to help fund the RDU Vision 2040 Master Plan – which was just approved by the federal government this fall.
- RTA priority 3 – Create low-cost project fund: New $44m annually in statewide low-cost project fund approved by NC legislature
We initiated this conversation with NCDOT earlier this year. NCDOT has exhibited tremendous leadership in advancing this opportunity – both before and after legislative passage.
Other successes of RTA and/or the region, involving transit, bike share, and congestion relief:
- Wake Transit implementation begins, the largest county transit referendum in NC history
- This spring our region’s largest county activated the taxes and fees needed to implement the largest county transit referendum in North Carolina history. By this summer, three of the four future bus rapid transit corridors had achieved 15 minute weekday service frequencies – two of the three thanks to ongoing investments by the City of Raleigh – along with the initiation of other new services, the development of a work plan, and the commencement of required studies for bus and rail investments over the next decade.
- $207m Raleigh Transportation Bond referendum easily approved by voters
- We believe this to be the largest municipal transportation bond at the city or town level in our region’s history, with road and sidewalk improvements as the centerpiece. We were pleased to support this initiative and look forward to its successful implementation to improve travel in the capital city.
- Durham-Orange light rail receives federal approval to move into Engineering phase
- This high capacity transit investment between two of our region’s largest communities achieved a significant milestone earlier this year by receiving federal approval to enter Engineering. Very few transit projects in the nation make it this far and GoTriangle is to be commended for their sustained efforts. In 2018 we will continue to focus on ensuring that the land uses around each station will maximize ridership along the corridor; there is an upcoming event in February 2018 hosted by GoTriangle and Triangle-J that explores this opportunity.
- Successful implementation of on-ramp signals for I-540 in north Raleigh
- Have you seen the ongoing media coverage of on-ramp signals this fall? We haven’t either, and that’s probably a good sign of successful implementation for this congestion relief initiative by NCDOT. We led the lobbying effort in the legislature for the authorization of North Carolina’s first on-ramp signals and have supported their implementation and future expansion.
- I-540 express shoulder lanes receives $70m in funding in draft state transportation plan
- RTA pushed this concept of accelerating freeway congestion relief by providing a new, lower-cost peak hour option. Only 1/7 the cost of a typical express lane, the proposed I-540 express shoulder lane received significant funding in the draft statewide transportation plan thanks to the efforts of NCDOT and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Our current expectation is that this will be America’s longest express shoulder lane when it opens in the next several years.
- Wake County welcomes its first north-south primary Interstate: I-87
- We have advocated for additional Interstate access for more than a decade. This effort came to significant fruition with the posting of Interstate 87 signage in Wake County earlier this year, which created the capital county’s second primary interstate, complementing I-40 and bringing more areas with direct access to the Interstate system.
- Bicycle share expands from zero to six systems in less than six months
- Our region has dramatically expanded bike share from literally nothing six months ago. NC State University launched bike share this summer by welcoming LimeBike. Since that time, NC Central added Zagster, UNC Chapel Hill added Gotcha Bike, and the City of Durham added Spin, Ofo, as well as LimeBike. The City of Raleigh will be adding Bewegen this spring, which will make it seven systems that create new ways to get around our cities, towns, and universities.
- RTA releases America’s Most Moving-Forward Region mobility report
These and other successes have made 2017 a great year for our region. In next week’s weekly member briefing, I will provide an overview of our 2018 priorities, and some thoughts about our upcoming Summit Series.
Happy New Year,
Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA Executive Director