Wilson Lands $10M Grant
Wilson officials learned early Monday morning that the city was successful in pulling in a $10 million federal grant that will lead to much-anticipated improvements to the U.S. 301 corridor.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, notified city officials, including Mayor Bruce Rose, about the grant award during a 10 a.m. conference call. The city is set to receive a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) VII grant. The city of Wilson will add $3 million to the project, increasing its overall value to $13 million.
The scope of the project includes intersection improvements, medians, sidewalks, walking paths and drainage. The work zone will be along U.S. 301 from Lipscomb Road to Black Creek Church Road.
The goals are to make the area safer for pedestrians and traffic while also encouraging new investment and development. Sidewalks will connect to Wilson Community College’s new Lee Campus, which will help connect city residents to job-training opportunities.
"Improvement of the highway is a top priority for the city,” said Rodger Lentz, Wilson’s chief planning and development officer. "This grant will help us implement neighborhood revitalization goals adopted by Mayor Rose and city council in the 2030 comprehensive plan. When completed, the project will make a difference for the residents and businesses along the highway.”
Butterfield said the grant request was scaled back from an original $16 million project, which included $2 million in city funding. He also said the federal grant will be entirely used for transportation improvements.
"I have lived in east Wilson all my life so, certainly, I understand the need of economic development,” Butterfield said. "This will be a partnership between the city and the federal government to invest in infrastructure in east Wilson that will lead to a better quality of life and the creation of jobs. A $10 million grant is significant.”
Butterfield praised the work of city staff in preparing a competitive application to the U.S. Department of Transportation. He also credited the work of others, including the original U.S. 301 task force that first took up concerns and sought solutions to one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares.
"This was a collaborative effort between a lot of entities,” Butterfield said. "The people of east Wilson will feel the benefits of this program for years to come.”
Butterfield has been involved in advocating for Wilson’s TIGER grant application. He sent two letters of support to U.S. DOT officials and met several times with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to discuss the positive impacts the project would have on the local economy.
The TIGER grant is the first of its kind for the city of Wilson, which has sought for years to find a significant source of money to make improvements to the U.S. 301 corridor. The grant is part of $500 million in TIGER grants that will be announced nationwide this week by DOT.
"This is a fantastic day for the city of Wilson,” Mayor Bruce Rose said. "We’ve been working many years to improve the appearance of U.S. 301, and we hope it will bring more jobs and shopping to that corridor. We can do much more with this grant than we could with city money.”
Also on the morning conference call was Lentz, Councilman A.P. Coleman and Councilman Derrick Creech. Coleman and Creech’s districts include U.S. 301.
"I am definitely excited and pleased,” Creech said. "It’s a new day for east Wilson and all of Wilson. This is going to lead to a better future for the people in my district.”
The city applied for the grant earlier this year, after holding a community meeting to gather ideas and input. City officials learned last week that the project became a finalist for the grant.
Butterfield said the city can apply for another TIGER grant in the future, but the chances of receiving one become harder. He said he will encourage Wilson leaders to seek a variety of other grant funding sources.
"This is going to make the entire area look better,” Coleman said. "It’s going to be more inviting to visitors and more inviting to us who live here.”
The city still needs to work out an agreement with DOT for the project’s timeline. Work could begin as early as 2016, and the project will need to be completed by 2022.