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STATE NEWS: Two N.C. transportation projects recognized by national organization

RALEIGH – A national transportation organization is honoring North Carolina officials for highway and railroad projects that have improved safety and mobility and spurred economic growth in Wilmington and the Piedmont.

The N.C. Department of Transportation was one of six southeastern transportation agencies earning awards on Tuesday as part of the 11th annual America’s Transportation Awards competition. The winners were announced during the annual meeting of Southeastern transportation agencies in Houston.

The Wilmington Bypass and the Piedmont Improvement Program were selected as two of the best transportation projects in the Southeast by a panel of judges with the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, or AASHTO.

As regional winners, North Carolina’s projects will be considered for the nation’s top transportation prizes, which will be announced in September.

“We’re pleased to be recognized among our transportation peers in the Southeast for these two projects,” said NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon. “The Wilmington Bypass and the Piedmont Improvement Program reflect our commitment to improve safety, capacity and reliability.”

The Wilmington Bypass connects New Hanover and Brunswick counties. It completes the 20-mile I-140 corridor around Wilmington, which began more than 20 years ago. The combined $210 million project included an eight-mile highway and the construction of 19 bridges. The project has eased congestion, enabled quicker and safer travel for commuters, and bolstered economic development by creating a controlled access corridor for freight traffic and other motorists in southeastern North Carolina.

The Piedmont Improvement Program, which was North Carolina’s largest series of improvements to the state’s rail infrastructure, was completed in 2017. The program involved rail and highway projects that have made train travel more safe and reliable between Raleigh and Charlotte. The program has also allowed for two new daily round trips on the Piedmont passenger line, meaning passengers are now able to travel on five trains each way between Raleigh and Charlotte. The $520 million program was largely paid for with federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The NCDOT partnered with the North Carolina Railroad Company, the Federal Railroad Administration and Norfolk Southern on the program.

The Wilmington Bypass project tied for first in the “Quality of Life/Community Development, Large Project” category. The Piedmont Improvement Program won in the “Operations Excellence, Large Project” category. Projects were nominated for one of three categories: “Quality of Life/Community Development,” “Best Use of Technology & Innovation,” and “Operations Excellence.”

The competition is sponsored by AASHTO, Socrata, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.