Simple Question, Complicted Reply
We at The Pilot very much appreciate the willingness of Gene Conti, North Carolina's secretary of transportation, to submit to the Q&A interview that appeared in Sunday's paper.
Conti is a personable sort, and it can't be easy to go around the state bearing the brunt of an endless variety of complaints about local road and highway problems, many of which are no doubt beyond his power to solve.
(Examples that appeared on our website soon after the publication of the interview included, "I'd like to know when they are going to fix the Morganton/15-501 stoplights," and, "When can I expect you to fix the pothole on my road? Every day I hit it, drop my phone and spill my coffee!"
Complicating the secretary's situation is the fact that he can probably expect to leave his position in the next few months, no matter who wins the governor's job.
How Convoluted Can It Be?
Still, having taken due note of all that, we have to point out that Secretary Conti's responses to our repeated questions about the hottest local transportation issue, the possibility that a new U.S. 1 bypass might be bulldozed through Moore County's beautiful Horse Country, tended to come across as so much evasive bureaucratic gobbledygook.
Consider the following exchange, which kicked off our interview:
Q: "Even though NCDOT has said there is no plan to put a bypass through Horse Country, there is a lot of local mistrust of that statement. Where does NCDOT currently stand on the issue?"
A: "Well, what we're trying to do is work with the county, and we've made a lot of progress. The process is complicated, and it's that way because of federal laws. ... In order to do project development, we need a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for a jurisdiction. Moore County doesn't have one. We've been working for several years now to do one. ... This is not a DOT decision alone. This is a decision made jointly with the county, the rural planning organization and DOT."
How Much Louder?
It was then pointed out that the town of Southern Pines, the village of Pinehurst, the town of Aberdeen, the town of Pinebluff and Moore County Board of Commissioners have all passed resolutions strongly opposing a bypass. Asked if NCDOT might proceed with such a highly unpopular and unnecessary project anyway, Conti replied, in part:
"By current practice, and I think by anybody's rational approach, you would not do that. We certainly have no intention of doing that. If the locals are saying, 'This is not only not a priority. It's not even on a list of things we want,' then it's not going to happen."
Again, we understand that this is not one man's decision to make. Conti's job is not an easy one. There are a lot of politics involved, not to mention many stifling layers of bureaucracy.
Still, with all due respect: How much louder does every imaginable local body have to yell that we don't want this thing before the state's top transportation gun feels free to declare simply that it ain't gonna happen, to dispense with all the dependent phrases, escape clauses and other ambiguous wordage, and to move on down the road?
All together now: We don't want it!
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