I attended today’s Economic Development Commissions (EDC) Board of Directors meeting. This was the meeting announced on the front page of Tuesday’s paper. The meeting was intended for the EDC board to meet with Jim Trogdon, the Department of Transportation’s Chief Operating Officer and Chuck Watts, a DOT board member representing our region, to discuss the transportation issues for Vance County. The public was invited and did not attend. In fact attendance was sparse in number and long on those with knowledge of transportation needs for our county.
The meetings opened after introduction with Mr. Watt’s first apologizing for Mr. Trogdon’s absence. He then framed the meeting to be a discussion of transportation needs for Vance County and what transportation planning can do for rural areas such as ours. He acknowledged that DOT’s strained resources tend to flow to where the population is growing, the metro areas; adding that the gas tax will not be sufficient to fund transportation needs going into the future.
When Mr. Watts completed his introductory remarks, Sam Watkins, Chairman of EDC Board, called on those EDC Board Members (Andrea Harris, John Barnes, and Stuart Livtin), Terry Garrison, the sole elected official attending, Jerry Asycue, County Manager, and Ray Griffin, City Manager, to speak of county and city transportation needs. Mr. Griffin was first to speak setting a high mark for the discussion by saying that transportation is a paradox with varying increasing needs and the pushback from those impacted by the expansion of roadways. He stressed the need for a high speed rail stop in Henderson adding that we need to change our transportation paradigm to incorporate more than just a reliance on the car for travel. Mr. Watts clarified that high speed rail was not a bullet train [as used in Europe, Japan, and China] instead it will be a more direct routes between points. His example of more direct routes was the train from Raleigh to Washington, DC. That train travels south out of Raleigh before going north not a direct route.
Mr. Griffin also pointed out that the land under and boarding freeways, highways, roads, and railways becomes government land and off the property tax rolls while obviously not decreasing the service needs of the city and county; more of that transportation paradox. Mr. Watts said it is a challenge to meet everyone’s needs so the DOT is using a data driven needs program instead of the behind close door program of yesteryear when allocating the transportation resources. Mr. Griffin added much later that there is no way to satisfactorily divide the [transportation] pie to meet everyone’s needs; that balance is closet to equal dissatisfaction.
From my seat in the peanut gallery the exchange between Mr. Griffin and Mr. Watts more than met the intention of the meeting and is why I focused on it. All an all this was a true exchange of Vance County transportation needs with a DOT board member and a meeting worthwhile attending.