There may be “money on the ground” coming toward Rowan County in The American Jobs Plan, now before Congress, and it is good news for all of us who travel on roads and bridges that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has declared structurally deficient.
Although the plan has not passed Congress, a majority of U.S. citizens support it for the good that it will do to cities and counties, transportation safety, the labor market for those of us in the construction or manufacturing industries, businesses in general, and tourism, a growing player in our market.
Construction jobs are already one of the top five occupations in Rowan County, according to DataUSA, and the Jobs Plan would add jobs in that market.
Repairing bridges and roads will save drivers (and businesses) money. According to the plan, each North Carolina driver is paying an extra $500 per year in costs because of driving on roads in need of repair. The road improvements will have an effect on business, such as the trucking industry — they will be more productive in long run because it will cost less for everybody to travel, according to Alison Premo Black, Senior Vice President of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
Getting Creative with Rail
The plan is big on rail improvements, including new rail routes to top tourist locations in the state — Wilmington and Asheville. The service to Asheville would connect in Salisbury, and with our long association with trains and the N.C. Transportation Museum, further moving us ahead in tourism. We have the original, creative minds to make that work to our advantage. The plan also adds new rail service from Charlotte to Greenville, SC, and Atlanta, another plus for our area.
The other part of the North Carolina rail plan includes direct Raleigh-to-Richmond rail, instead of going east to Selma, NC, from Raleigh to head north. This opens the Southeast Corridor to the Northeast Corridor, a potentially big advantage for business travelers, who want to avoid highway congestion. This would cut an hour and a half out of the rail trip between the two capitals. This project has been discussed for 30 years in North Carolina.
Although details of the administration’s road plan have not been released, the list of roads where improvements are needed is a good place to start. Kelly Seltz, P.E., Resident Engineer with the NC DOT for our county, says that the funding, if approved, could accelerate the current long-range road improvement plan.
Here’s a look at road work that is in the long-range plan:
- Rehab U.S. 29/601 in China Grove to Jake Alexander Boulevard, Salisbury.
- Widen to eight lanes, U.S. 29/601 connector from NC 73 in Cabarrus County.
- Convert grade separation to interchange, I-85/Old Beatty Ford Road, Landis.
- Stabilize slopes, replace emergency lane/shoulder, reseal joints, I-85/Innes Street, Salisbury, /U.S. 52/601/Jake Alexander Boulevard interchanges.
- Revise interchanges, improve corridor, NC 152 west of U.S. 29/601 to east of I-85 in China Grove.
- Widen to multi-lines, U.S. 52, proposed Misenheimer Bypass to proposed Rockwell Bypass.
- Ramp, intersection improvements, U.S. 29/NC 152, China Grove.
- Remove residual pavement, strengthen remaining pavement, Long Ferry Road/I-85 Service Road near Spencer. Construct right turn lane and cul-de-sac.
- Widen to multi-lanes, Julian Road/U.S. 601 to Summit Park Drive.
- Two-lane connector on new location, New Route, Kimball Road Extension/North Chapel Street to Bostian Road in Landis.
- Construct new multi-land road, New Route, Bendix Drive/U.S. 52 (East Innes Street), Salisbury.
- Construct two-lane road on multi-lane right-of-way, New Route, Airport Parkway/Harrison Road near U.S. 70/601 (Jake Alexander Boulevard), Salisbury, to Peach Orchard Road at U.S. 29.
- Upgrade road, incorporating bike lanes and sidewalks, Jackson Park Road/North Loop Road, Kannapolis, to Kimball Road, China Grove
Here’s the long-range plan for bridges in Rowan County:
- Replace two bridges over Norfolk Southern Railway and U.S. 29/NC 152, China Grove.
- Replace bridge over Fourth Street, NC 801, western Rowan.
- Replace bridge near Nails Branch, Mt. Vernon Road, western Rowan.
- Replace bridge over Town Creek, Peach Orchard Road, Salisbury.
- Replace bridge over Norfolk /southern Railway, Hurley School Road.
Here are safety projects in the long-range plan:
- Relocate existing road with grade separation over I-85, Old Beatty Ford Road and Bostian Road to Lentz Road, southern Rowan.
- Widen and install rumble strips, Old Beatty Ford Road/Lowerstone Church Road to Lentz Road.
- Improve intersection, Stokes Ferry and Oddie roads.
- Construct bike lanes, Newsome Road, Salisbury.
- Signal system upgrade, City of Salisbury.
- Improve air quality and congestion, Rowan County.
Rowan County could also benefit from the role that manufacturing plays in the proposed Jobs Plan. We’re diverse, but manufacturing, along with health care and retail, is one of the largest sectors of employment. The Rowan Economic Development Commission reports a total of 2,500 businesses in the county. A total of 50 local manufacturers are associated with Rowan Cabarrus Community College’s North Carolina Manufacturing Institute, a partnership that connects manufacturers and educational opportunities. A total of $300 billion is proposed in the Jobs Plans to retool and revitalize American manufacturers, including providing incentives for manufacturers to invest in innovative energy projects.
A Help to Veterans
Over in west Salisbury, the VA Medical Center — one of our largest employers — serves more than 89,000 veterans per year. The Jobs Plan proposes $18 billion to improve Veterans Affairs health care facilities. This, too, could have a construction effect on Salisbury and Rowan County workers. We are one of the most rapidly growing VA Medical Center systems in North Carolina, with more than 3,000 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $600 million.
Will it happen? Will these roads and bridges get the needed repairs? This is the season of hopes and dreams, in many ways. Just dreaming of Rowan County 10 years from now, proud of our strengthened roads and bridges and the workers who gave us yet another reason to realize that this is a great place to live, work, and play.