by David Anderson
Kinston Free Press
More than 30 state, regional and local leaders gathered for a summit in Kinston on Friday to lay the groundwork for determining the best methods for improving transportation in Eastern North Carolina and developing the economy for the coming decades.
For the foreseeable future, those planners will also have to deal with an ever-shrinking funding picture.
“I can tell you, we’re really at a crossroads in transportation in North Carolina, in the nation,” Jim Trogdon, chief operating officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, told the group, which assembled in a training room at the Kinston Public Services Complex.
Trogdon talked about the need to develop a regional consensus among local communities, and an effort at the state level to divide North Carolina into three regions — eastern, Piedmont and western — and develop transportation solutions tailored to each region’s needs.
“Eastern North Carolina could hopefully rally around a goal, strategies and solutions that are consistent with how Eastern North Carolina does business,” Trogdon said.
He explained that North Carolina cannot focus on competing with neighboring states to grow jobs, but must work to compete with other nations economically, and transportation networks in Eastern North Carolina must be improved with that goal in mind.
“What we have been doing produces the same results, and we really have to do something different,” Trogdon said.
Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety, interim chairman of the Lenoir County Transportation Committee, asked Trogdon: “How can we come together to help you?”
The DOT leader said local people must do “whatever it takes to get some kind of consensus.”
“That is really driven by people, not by anything that I know,” he added.
John Chaffee, president and CEO of the Kinston-based North Carolina’s Eastern Region Development Commission, said “we have to think locally and put it in a regional context,” and determine “what kind of transportation systems we need to deploy to achieve that kind of connectivity.”
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, who also sits on the county’s Transportation Committee, said, by the end of the meeting, “the beginnings of a southeastern North Carolina” coalition had been developed.
“Our assets in the East are our military bases, our two ports, the Global TransPark, East Carolina University, our medical school and UNC-Wilmington, and how to tie all of those organizations, all of those assets together through transportation will be crucial in industrial recruitment and job creation,” he said.
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.