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N.C. Transportation Secretary To Speak in Blowing Rock June 24 as Keynote of ‘Outside the Rock’ Public Meeting

April 22, 2014. The North Carolina Strategic Transportation Investments Law (House Bill 817) is the focus of the next Outside the Rock editorial series, Blowing Rock News announced on Monday.  A meeting on June 24, 2014, 4:00 pm, in the Community Room at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Blowing Rock, is open to the public. Admission is free.

North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata will deliver a presentation about the law passed last year to reorganize how the NCDOT allocates existing revenues to transportation infrastructure projects.  House Bill 817 goes into effect on July 1, 2015.  The working title for Mr. Tata’s presentation is “The Strategic Mobility Formula: What It Is and How It Is Different.”

In addition to Mr. Tata’s prepared remarks, the event will feature a panel discussion, “The Strategic Mobility Formula’s Impact on the High Country,” followed by an open “Q&A”.

Don Hubble will serve as moderator for the panel discussion.  Mr. Hubble is the current Chair of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee and the former Chief Operating Officer of a Fortune 500 company.

Mr. Tata will be joined on the panel discussion by David Graham, Transportation Planner, High Country Council of Governments; Joe Furman, Director, Watauga County Economic Development Commission; Charles Hardin, Executive Director, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce; Representative Jonathan Jordan, North Carolina House of Representatives, District 93.

“I have been involved in transportation planning in our region for over 10 years,” reported Phillip Trew, Director of Planning and Development for the High Country Council of Governments to Blowing Rock News.  “So I have a strong interest in how the new formula will affect the High Country. “

Trew’s agency  is responsible for coordinating the local scoring of transportation projects under the new formula. 

“The Strategic Mobility Formula passed last year,” Blowing Rock News editor and publisher David Rogers noted, “is a significant piece of legislation because it has the potential to greatly impact various regions of North Carolina. Under the new system of allocating capital resources, more authority is placed in the hands of local decision-makers to address North Carolina’s transportation infrastructure needs. Generally, those local decision-makers are the ones most sensitive to and knowledgeable about local area traffic patterns and demands. 

“Ostensibly, it is a more efficient and fair process,” Rogers added, “but there are still many questions. Different state geographies have different needs, and nowhere is that more profoundly true than in the High Country where we face harsher climate extremes than elsewhere in the state.  Moreover, environmental sensitivities are particularly high with tourism as a major economic driver.  This is an opportunity to get questions answered about how the STI will respond to Blowing Rock-specific and High Country-specific needs?

What might be the impact on projects like the Middle Fork Greenway and its extensions north of Boone, to Todd? 

Are there other highway widening projects planned?

How does this affect a potential bypass around Boone?

Is a commercial passenger airport in the High Country more or less feasible under the new formula? 

“Everyone has questions,” concluded Rogers, “because everyone has a stake in our transportation infrastructure.  Blowing Rock News wishes to thank Mr. Tata and each of the panel discussion participants for agreeing to appear in Blowing Rock and speak to this issue for the public’s benefit.  As with all of our Outside the Rock meetings, we invite anyone and everyone to attend.  Admission is free.”

Outside the Rock is an editorial series launched by Blowing Rock News in September of 2013.  It focuses on companies, government agencies, and other business activities occurring outside of the immediate High Country region, but have the potential to have a profound impact on the economic development of the mountain region of North Carolina. 

The first Outside the Rock event featured the management team of Visionaire Jets LLC, manufacturer of the world’s first all-composite, single engine business jet, based in Newton, NC, that is expected to have a $2 billion annual economic impact on the Catawba River Valley.  The Johns River, which is part of the  Catawba River system, has its headwaters in the Globe Valley between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain.