Fiber optic cable planned along U.S. 64 to Nags Head

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Plans for constructing Interstate 87 between Zebulon and Tidewater Virginia also include laying fiber optic cable alongside U.S. 64 between Williamston and Nags Head, it was announced Feb. 20.

The fiber optic cable is to be installed throughout the length of the future I-87 and also along U.S. 64 to the coast because both corridors are considered important evacuation routes, Lloyd Griffin III of Elizabeth City, chairman of the Rural Transportation Advisory Committee in the northeastern counties, stated in a letter to Elaine Chao, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The project’s aim is “to improve freight mobility, rural access, and infrastructure resiliency specifically in an underserved portion of eastern North Carolina,” Griffin wrote, “while increasing the physical and digital connectivity of rural communities.”

This fiber optic cable investment will “permit NCDOT to implement state‐of‐the‐art wind and flood monitoring, manage the corridor in a coordinated manner with I‐95 and U.S. 70 (future I‐42) where fiber is already being installed, prepare for the future implementation of connected and autonomous vehicles, allow for the implementation of a statewide energy corridor vision by seeding the installation of electric vehicle charging stations along a priority corridor, enhance broadband capability in this underserved rural area, and offer the potential for revenue opportunities to NCDOT through the lease of excess fiber capacity,” Griffin pointed out to the secretary.

The installation of fiber will also represent a sound investment due to the projected revenue generation the state will see from providing a fiber/broadband “backbone” for additional incremental private investment in network expansion to rural areas, Griffin stated.

The future I‐87 corridor traverses rural eastern North Carolina via U.S. 17/U.S. 64, connecting Raleigh and I-95 with the Hampton Roads‐Norfolk region in Virginia.

“This corridor is critical to connecting northeastern North Carolina industries and farms to their best export option through the Port of Virginia and represents concerted cooperation across state lines to realize national economic development opportunities,” Griffin wrote.

Improvements along the future I‐87 corridor will also capitalize on the $270 million investments in the Carolina Connector Intermodal Rail Terminal (CCX) near Rocky Mount, removing barriers along the transportation route between CCX, the I‐95 corridor, and the Port of Virginia.

It is projected that activity at CCX will reduce shipping costs by 40% and increase the efficiency of the movement of goods, producing national economic trade benefits.

Project investments in this corridor will improve the road to interstate standards from Zebulon to Williamston, make upgrades to several interchanges, and widen the road to six lanes in the vicinity of Zebulon. The Project will make numerous spot improvements to mitigate road flooding in the Princeville area.

The Rural Transportation Advisory Committee is the transportation planning policy board for the Albemarle Rural Planning Organization (ARPO).

The ARPO works in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation assisting the counties of Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Gates, Chowan, Washington, Tyrrell, Hyde and Dare with regional and locally based short‐range and long‐range transportation planning.