Northern expansion slated for transportation hub

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Expansion of the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organi-zation (WMPO) to include areas north of Wilmington up to Surf City and along U.S. Highway 210 will be voted on at the next meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) on Dec. 12. During the TAC’s Oct. 31 meeting, town of Wrightsville Beach Alderman Bill Sisson motioned to only expand the WMPO’s boundary north despite the organization receiving requests for inclusion from municipalities in the southern part of Brunswick County. 

“My feeling is we either leave it the way it is or we move it up to the boundary at Surf City,” Sisson said. “But do not include the southern part of Brunswick County because of the huge rural gap that exists between the area that we now serve and the nearest urban cluster down there.”

So far, Bald Head Island, Southport and Boiling Springs Lakes had expressed interest in joining the WMPO, but Caswell Beach and St. James Plantation had not. The motion was passed unanimously and Sisson, Wilmington City Council member Laura Padgett and WMPO executive director Mike Kozlosky added that the Brunswick County municipalities could still be included at a later date. 

On July 18 of this year, the WMPO was federally reclassified as a Transportation Management Agency because the population the organization serves exceeded 200,000 in the 2010 United States Census. With its new designation, the WMPO will receive approximately $2.7 million from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHA) Surface Transportation Program Direct Attributable funds (STP-DA). The 20-percent required local match would bring the total up to approximately $3.5 million. 

The Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC), which is comprised of officials from the different municipalities in the WMPO, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Wave Transit, developed the prioritization percentages for these funds. The TCC suggested that 15 percent of the STP-DA funds for roadway projects, 20 percent for transit, 50 percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects and 15 percent for intersection projects.

Suraiya Rashid, associate transportation planner with the WMPO, presented the proposed prioritization plan and said the percentages were based on the typical costs of projects and the potential number of projects. Rashid said the 15 percent allocated to roadway projects would be enough for one to six projects at $500,000 each; the 20 percent for transit represented all of the CFPTA’s requests; the 50 percent for bicycle and pedestrian would be enough for approximately one project per jurisdiction at $50,000 each; and the 15 percent for intersection projects would be enough for one to two regional improvements. Kozlosky also said 15 percent of the total STP-DA funds is proposed to be allocated for the WMPO’s operating budget in order to hire more staff members for the increased workload that will come with the additional projects. 

After New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield made the motion to approve the prioritization, the TAC voted to approve it 5-2 with Commissioner Brian Berger and Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth voting against. 

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