Regional freight mobility planning scheduled

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What improvements can be made in hauling fresh-caught seafood from Wanchese, or just-picked string beans from Hyde County, to market?

How can Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Food Lion and other retailers get their products from distribution center to store quicker and at less cost?

Those and dozens of related questions will be addressed now that Cambridge Systematics has been selected as the preferred consultant for the Eastern North Carolina Regional Mobility Plan, “and we have begun to work out the contract and scope of work for the project,” Angela Walsh, director of the Albemarle Rural Planning Organization based in Hertford, announced August 2.

“We are on schedule to have Cambridge kick off in late August as anticipated and will be reaching out to stakeholders in the region to help us draft the plan soon,” she added.

The plan will be an effort to analyze, develop, and implement a safe, reliable and sustainable multimodal freight network to support the strategic goals of the region in promotion of economic competiveness and equity of the region, explained Dr. Paula Dowell of Cambridge.

The planning area is 28 northeastern counties between the Virginia line and Morehead City and from the Outer Banks to Johnston, Nash and Halifax counties.

Some of the stakeholders are shippers, carriers, facility operators, logistics service providers, economic development officials, state and local officials, the freight industry, and business leaders.

Much of the outreach will be accomplished through a regional freight advisory committee, interviews, and forums.

Impetus for the planning effort is federal legislation that requires states to develop and maintain statewide freight plans to outline future development of the strategic freight network, Ryan Purtle, transportation planner for the City of Greenville, told the Coastal NC Transportation Forum in Greenville July 24.

The statewide plan developed the state’s vision for a multimodal freight network establishing improvement strategies and goals for the state network as a whole, he said.

Other regions have completed similar efforts to take a deeper look at their specific freight networks to establish more defined improvement strategies to support local goals. Similar plans have been developed for the Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and

Greensboro-Winston Salem regions.

Purtle is also coordinator for the Greenville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Dowell is the principal in charge and director of economics at Cambridge Systematics. She has 18+ years of experience in transportation planning.

Purtle and Dowell said the planning process for northeastern counties should be completed in 12 months.