The report from Cambridge Systematics and Sanford Holshouser Economic Development Consulting, focused on the potential impact of making U.S. 70 a limited access, Interstate-like highway from Raleigh to Morehead City. It was released today at a meeting of the Highway 70 Corridor Commission, which is chaired by Carteret County Commissioner Robin Comer.
Among its findings, the study concluded by 2040 the series of bypasses and upgrade projects would:
- Create as many as 1,900 jobs each year for communities that rely on the corridor like Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston, New Bern, Havelock and Morehead City.
- Add $1.2 billion to the gross regional product, including $900 million in additional personal income
- Save $56 million for existing businesses.
“U.S. 70 is older and large segments have not been brought up to more current highway standards,” the report said. “Therefore, the communities surrounding the corridor are losing their competitive advantage to those areas with better highway access, fewer traffic signals and less congestion.”
The findings in the study are no surprise to Corridor Commission Director Durwood Stephenson. “We have known for years that the lack of a four-lane freeway system from Raleigh to the State Ports Facility in Morehead City has been a problem for economic growth,” Stephenson said. “But we had never in a professionally sound way quantified the potential benefits of completing this system, and the costs to retail establishments along the current alignment of U.S. 70. Now we have that data,” he added.
The study pointed out the unemployment rate for the six counties along the corridor is well above the national average of 6.3 percent, ranging from 8.4 percent in Johnston County to 10.5 percent in Jones County, according to 2012 data from the N.C. Department of Commerce. Other counties in the corridor include Carteret, Craven, Lenoir and Wayne. The study concluded that the completion of a U.S. 70 bypass system is essential to future economic development.
The corridor improvements also would have a beneficial impact on the entire state of North Carolina, creating 600 jobs annually for communities outside the corridor and adding an additional $1.4 billion to the state’s economic output, according to the report.
To conduct the study, researchers talked to mayors, managers, planners, economic developers, elected and appointed board members as well as business owners. The study found “almost unanimous agreement that U.S. 70 is critically important to the economic well being and future growth potential of all the communities within the corridor.”
The report also examined the potential impact of not improving the corridor. It found job growth would be slowed, with 350 fewer jobs created each year. It also found that the gross regional product would be $800 million less than if the corridor were completed. Finally, it found that growth in personal income would be reduced by $610 million.
The study noted that businesses along U.S. 70 might be adversely affected by rerouting the road. It suggested that proactive steps should be taken to mitigate any losses.
In conclusion, the study said the corridor improvements would “improve safety and connectivity, reduce travel time and cost and would enhance the competitive position of corridor companies to compete for plant expansions, creating jobs and growing the local tax base.”
“It is clear from this study that the potential for economic growth is tremendous,” said Stephenson. “It is also clearly laid out in this analysis that the completion of this system is strategically important for the region and the entire state in terms of fully realizing the potential of the State Ports Facility in Morehead City, the growth of the aviation sector in and around the Global Trans Park, and the retention and growth of military facilities that utilize this corridor. We need to take this message to policy leaders across the State,” Stephenson emphasized.
For more information, contact:
M. Durwood Stephenson