The North Carolina Department of Transportation this week was scheduled to hold four public meetings in communities along the Interstate 95 corridor to discuss the I-95 economic assessment, as well as the next steps in the process of improving the crumbling highway.
The assessment by Cambridge Systematics Inc. of Atlanta provides an analysis of alternative ways to fund the estimated $4.4 billion in improvements and widening of the four-lane Interstate, which crosses 182 miles of North Carolina.
Though the assessment does not make recommendations, it concludes that building the project with “mitigated tolls” would provide the greatest local and statewide economic benefit. Under this scenario local residents and businesses along the Interstate would receive a 50% reduction in toll rates.
NCDOT has programmed about $455 million or roughly 10% of the project funding in its budget, and identified tolling as the most feasible financing option to fund the remainder of the proposed improvements in a reasonable time frame, according to the assessment.
In a federal environmental assessment, NCDOT said that its preliminary intention would be to use 40-year bond financing to pay all or a majority of the project’s construction costs.
The project has received conditional approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation to enter the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, which could enable the state to toll I-95 from the South Carolina border to the Virginia border.
The state still must fill out a comprehensive application, finish certain studies and obtain federal approvals before receiving final approval for the pilot program.
I-95 in North Carolina was built between 1956 and 1980.