Jones, Butterfield introduce transportation bill
Two congressmen who represent Craven County voters introduced a bipartisan bill Friday to designate two Eastern North Carolina highways as “future interstates.”
Seeking a way to get federal funding for transportation improvements to U.S. 70 and U.S. 117, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, and Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-Farmville, introduced H.B. 5561 — the Military Corridor Transportation Improvement Act of 2014 — which calls for the designations.
Interstate level improvements to the highways would help better connect Cherry Point air station and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to the Morehead City Port and much of Eastern North Carolina.
The bill comes at the end of a week that brought Gov. Pat McCrory to Cherry Point for the N.C. Military Affairs Commission meeting where he spoke of his lobbying efforts on “the Hill” and to Greenville where he announced an ambitious state transportation program he hopes to see accomplished in Eastern North Carolina for some of the same reasons.
Butterfield said, “The Military Corridor Transportation Improvement Act would connect military bases and cities throughout Eastern North Carolina with an important port, the state capital, and the entire eastern seaboard. This plan will benefit Eastern North Carolina by improving military readiness and commerce, stimulating job creation, and reducing traffic congestion.”
The bill would guarantee the east-west U.S. 70 corridor from Raleigh to the Port of Morehead City will be built to interstate standards and prioritized when allocating funding for federal highways. It also seeks to also connect the north-south I-795 corridor from Goldsboro to I-40 by ensuring improvements to a section of U.S. 117.
Jones said, “I was pleased that Rep. Butterfield asked me to cosponsor the bill and will be delighted to work with G.K. on this.”
“These future interstates will benefit the entire state of North Carolina,” he said. “Eastern North Carolinians will have easier access to other parts of the state and there will be easier access to the Port of Morehead City and our military bases.”
“When interstate travel is made more efficient it will spur job creation and greater opportunities for Eastern North Carolinians, in addition to easing traffic,” Jones said.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that $1 billion in transportation funding can support about 30,000 jobs, which are critical to economic development in Eastern North Carolina.
“Improving access to eastern North Carolina is essential to supporting our military and boosting economic development and job creation,” Butterfield said.
The bill is supported by the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, which includes representatives from Craven County and many local governmental entities, chambers of commerce and regional transportation associations.
The Military Corridor Transportation Act of 2014 can be considered as part of the annual Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill, which may be considered in the U.S. House of Representatives in November, Butterfield said.
But Jones said it is more likely the bill will move in 2015.
“Congress will only be in session about three days in November and around a week to 10 days in December,” he said, “but we will have a transportation bill in 2015 and we will try to get this included in the overall bill.”
“This roads system is vital,” said Jones. “It is very important from economic standpoint. I think it’s the right thing to do for Eastern North Carolina.”