Elected reps and airport push for completion of Urban Loop around Greensboro

by Jordan Green

Elected reps and airport push for completion of Urban Loop around Greensboro

Close on the heels of a trip to Raleigh by Greensboro City Councilman Robbie Perkins and City Manager Rashad Young late last month to meet with state transportation officials, city council members met with the Guilford County legislative delegation to lobby for changes in the state’s transportation funding formula to expedite the completion of the Urban Loop.

The city wants to see state legislation passed to raise the priority of projects in which the city banks land for right of way, as Greensboro plans to do. Perkins said the state has committed to buy the land from the city at the amount the city paid for it, plus interest.

Perkins said the Greensboro delegation was told by Transportation Secretary Gene Conti and Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon “that if you put the money in it will be noticed.”

Perkins said he and Young asked the state transportation department to consider the Urban Loop about three segments, so that the project’s ranking will improve in the state’s cost-benefit analysis. Perkins and Young told the transportation officials that the city’s first priority is to complete the eastern segment, which connects US Highway 70 with US Highway 29. The second highest priority is the northwestern segment connecting Bryan Boulevard to US Highway 220. Last is the segment that cuts across several residential neighborhoods in the northern part of the city.

The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority passed a resolution days earlier supporting the completion of the remaining portion of the Urban Loop.

Assistant Director Kevin Baker said the airport views the completion of the Urban Loop as critical to attracting air passengers and opening up markets for goods shipped through the airport in northern an eastern points in Rockingham County and, beyond that, in Virginia.

“The main thing would be that it provides a critical link to anticipated high-growth areas around the airport east and north of Greensboro,” he said.

Rep. Earl Jones, who chairs the Guilford County delegation, and Sen. Don Vaughan, said any initiative to tweak state funding criteria to benefit the Urban Loop would likely find support from Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger and Rep. Nelson Cole, two powerful lawmakers from Rockingham County.

Berger is the highest-ranked Republican in the Senate, and Cole chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. Both have reportedly expressed interest in seeing the project.

The short session, which falls on evennumbered years, is typically reserved for noncontroversial legislation or bills connected with the budget, and Jones said the funding formula amendment requested by the city is likely to be considered in 2011. It could run into opposition from lawmakers representing both the western and eastern ends of the state.

“When you have a highway system connecting Charlotte to Raleigh with Greensboro in between, we’re all kind of allied,” Jones said. “It’s when you get out of that with the east versus west [dynamic] that you run into trouble.”

Greensboro City Manager Rashad Young and Assistant City Manager Denise Turner meet with NC Rep. Laura Wiley during ameeting last week. (photo by Jordan Green)