Road planning is a slow process by design. The typical timeline can stretch out for a decade or more of data collection, planning, funding and eventual construction before a new road or improved roadway condition comes to fruition.
The result is elected leaders and transportation officials can find themselves frustrated in working with outdated information long before a proposed project is ready for asphalt.
When discussion wrapped up last year on the much-anticipated local Comprehensive Transportation Plan — a blueprint of sorts that lists 40 potential future projects to relieve congestion and improve safety — there were already efforts underway to refresh travel data.
“It is hard to make decisions about what transportation investments you should be making if you’re basing it off of old information,” said Matt Day, a planner with the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization (TARPO), who assists a four-county region to identify projects and put them in the pipeline for state funding.
On Thursday, he addressed members of the Moore County Transportation Committee (MCTC). He recommended Community Viz, a land use modeling computer program, would be a good tool to move forward.
In 2013, the Moore County Transportation Committee (MCTC) approved an origin-and-destination study that used cell phone data to track travel patterns. Rather than looking at any “personally identifying information,” the study captured signal data from cell towers that was used to determine where trips originated and ended, offering insight between resident and nonresident data.
The numbers from that study, in addition to population statistics, and information provided by each municipality and Moore County, provided much of the baseline “travel demand” data that helped to identify and prioritize future road projects.
Day said the Community Viz system would use a similar data-collection method, along with considerable local input from county and municipal planners to build its data layers, based on land capacity and growth allocation.
In addition to assessing current traffic conditions, the study will assist the MCTC with prioritizing future road needs as part of the state’s every other year ranking process.
“When we are looking out to 2040-2045, I can guarantee that none of our guesses are going to be perfect,” said DOT planner Scott Ralston, “but we have to make the best educated estimates we can.”
Work on the Community Viz model is expected to begin later this year.
DOT is also currently conducting a 30-day public comment period, through Feb. 28, for area residents to submit their suggestions and concerns. In addition, the DOT Division 8 headquarters office at 121 DOT Drive, in Carthage, will host a three-day open house during business hours Feb. 3-5. Citizens are invited to drop-by to learn about potential projects in Chatham, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond and Scotland counties.
An interactive map with information about DOT projects that are currently in the planning pipeline can be viewed online at www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/Transportation/stip/Pages/stip-projects-map.aspx