The process of putting together a comprehensive plan outlining the transportation needs of Sampson County a quarter century from now is under way, with committee members to be selected from across the county to assist the N.C. Department of Transportation over the next two years in identifying future needs.
The DOT is in the process of beginning the development of a Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for Clinton and Sampson County. Sarah E. Lee, a transportation engineer for the N.C. DOT Transportation Planning Branch, provided an overview of the CTP process to the City Council this week.
Lee said the plan will replace previous thoroughfare plans, which focused solely on municipalities.
“It’s countywide, so this allows the data that we use in the plan to all be based on the same year,” said Lee. “It’s also more inclusive and understandable when it comes to public involvement. We have a lot of public outreach in these plans. It’s more efficient and regionally comprehensive just to study the entire county. It makes a lot more sense that way.”
She said the plan will be developed cooperatively between the county and all its municipalities, the Mid-Carolina Rural Planning Organization and N.C. DOT. The presentation given to Council has already been given to town boards in Autryville, Newton Grove and Salemburg, and similar presentations will be given this month to other municipalities. Upon completion of initial meetings with all communities within Sampson County and the Sampson County Board of Commissioners, a CTP steering committee will be formed.
“Having all this representation allows us to incorporate local interests, community goals, statewide goals, hopefully all in one common plan,” said Lee. “It’s long-range. Our horizon year for this plan is 2040. We usually go out quite a few years — usually 25 to 30 years.”
That committee will include members of each governing board in the towns and county. In all, planning director Mary Rose said Clinton-Sampson Planning staff will be working on the project with Lee for the next 18 to 24 months.
“Our ultimate goal is to identify transportation deficiencies, basically problem areas,” Lee said. “We’re going to gather data on all the roads that we study and that helps generate recommendations that decision-makers like you guys can use as you make decisions about your transportation network.”
N.C. General Statute requires each municipality, with the cooperation of the N.C. DOT, to develop a CTP serving present and anticipated travel demand in and around the municipality. According to the DOT, “the plan shall be based on the best information available including, but not limited to, population growth, economic conditions and prospects, and patterns of land development in and around the municipality, and shall provide for the safe and effective use of the transportation system.”
While a municipal framework has given way to a countywide look in Sampson, the plan will look the same.
It is a multi-modal plan, encompassing four different modes — highways, public transportation and rail, bicycle and pedestrian, Lee noted. The CTP will essentially be a series of five sheets with the same base map containing the basic infrastructure for the area and will include the existing roadway system, rail lines, water features, and features significant to the area. CTP sheets include the Adoption Sheet, Highway Map, Public Transportation and Rail Map, Bicycle Map and Pedestrian Map.
“Independently the highway map, public transportation and rail map, and bicycle map offer insight into the future modal elements for an area,” according to the DOT. “Together, the maps form an all-inclusive look at the transportation system.”
A CTP does not determine a location of new roads, but states that a “connection” is needed from point A to B, Lee noted.
“It also does not make a promise to build projects,” she said, “but it is a first important step to obtaining those projects. It’s fiscally unconstrained, so we don’t take into account funding for this plan. We like to say that this provides a needs list for 2040. In the end, these recommendations that we make are going to be what will be needed at that time, based on current data.
The CTP is designed to be easily updated so it can remain relevant. If there is a sizable change in the area or when the plan is updated every five years or so, data included in the plan will be modified as needed, so new data and updated recommendations can be brought to local officials.
Once completed, the plan will be endorsed at three different levels, including the local level (county and towns), regional (RPO) and state (Board of Transportation). Lee estimated the 18 to 24 month time frame as a good ballpark figure, but said it could take longer. The importance of the plan is great, she said.
There are numerous steps in a DOT project, from the origin of an idea to the construction and maintenance. “The CTP is the very first step,” said Lee.
“We are still working on introductory presentations to all municipalities in the county. We’re about in the middle right now. We have some throughout July as well. After that, we’re going to have our initial meeting with the committee. Then, after that, there’s a lot of data collection to begin.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.