Last updated: August 05. 2014 4:21PM - 694 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentEconomic developer John Swope talks business during Monday night's meeting of the Sampson Board of Commissioners.
Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentEconomic developer John Swope talks business during Monday night's meeting of the Sampson Board of Commissioners.
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A road economic impact study in Wayne County has drawn the attention of those in Sampson for its future implications — notably the money and jobs it could bring with it.

The U.S. 117/I-795 economic impact assessment study will be unveiled later this month and the Wayne County Transportation Committee sent invitations out to those in surrounding counties interested in learning about the effect of the growth on “citizens, economy, development patterns and lifestyle.”

Sampson County officials were among those invited.

“Many of you are familiar with the new road from Wilson to Goldsboro with a number designation of 795,” Sampson Board of Commissioners chairman Jefferson Strickland told his fellow board members. “The plan is for that road to continue onto Faison and be in Sampson County at the (Interstate) 40/(N.C.) 403 intersection. One of the first meetings to present some of the faces and facts is going to be held in August, and they’ve asked several members of our community to attend.”

Strickland proposed that Jerol Kivett, chairman of the Sampson County Transportation Advocacy Group (TAG), Commissioners Albert Kirby and Billy Lockamy, as well as John Swope, executive director of the Sampson Economic Development Commission, be in attendance at the Aug. 21 meeting at Lane Tree Conference Center in Goldsboro.

The board agreed unanimously.

Interstate 795 is an interstate spur that follows the U.S. 117 corridor from I-95 near Wilson to U.S. 70 in Goldsboro, a length of about 25 miles. There are no other interstates in the eastern portion of North Carolina, east of I-95 and I-40.

Its connectivity with a portion of I-40 in northern Sampson could prove vastly beneficial, local officials attested.

The extension of I-795 southward along the U.S. 117 corridor would connect cities and industrial centers important to national defense, economic growth and job creation, Joe Daughtery, chairman of the Wayne County Transportation Committee, stated in his correspondence to Sampson County and others.

“Completing Interstate 795 between Goldsboro and Interstate 40 would give rise to significant travel efficiencies for existing businesses and residents and attract additional businesses and population,” Daughtery stated.

Daughtery cited the potential of $74 million in business and resident cost savings, $520 million in GRP (gross regional product) and nearly $490 million in additional personal income by 2040.

“Employment is projected to grow faster as well, adding about 220 more jobs on average per year along the corridor when compared to not completing the corridor,” he said.

A recently-concluded U.S. 70 Corridor Commission study evaluated the economic development impacts of completing the four-lane freeway bypass system of highways for U.S. 70 from I-40 in Raleigh to the Morehead City State Ports facility; and the conversion of U.S. 117 to I-795 from Goldsboro to I-40.

A U.S. 117 conversion would mean expansion for that road and an impact for I-40 in Sampson, Swope said at the time the study was initiated.

The study team of Cambridge Systematics and the Sanford Holshouser Economic Development Consulting LLC conducted that analysis and are the same team set to conduct the U.S. 117/I-795 economic impact assessment study.

With the Department of Transportation also in the fold, Swope has alluded to exciting possibilities.

“I-795 would be proposed to connect to I-40 near Faison,” Swope said previously. “That would give us a direct route north to I-95, direct access instead of going (west) on I-40 and then catching I-95 North. They would connect to a new I-795, giving people traveling north and south better access than traveling I-40 to I-95.”

State officials said the completion of the highway improvements, has extensive long-term implications for the economic future of eastern North Carolina and the counties along the corridor.

The U.S. 70 Corridor Commission study found that as many as 1,900 jobs could be created each year for communities that rely on the corridor such as Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston, New Bern, Havelock and Morehead City. Among other statistics, $1.2 billion could be added to the GRP, including $900 million in additional personal income, and as much as $56 million saved for existing businesses.

Local officials are hoping those positive effects ultimately extend to Sampson.

For years, Swope has sought — and local officials have extended incentives — to attract industries to locate permanently to Exits 348 and 355 off of I-40 in northern Sampson County with mixed success.

Another large interstate would only aid in that pursuit.

“The highest investment value is an interstate,” Swope said last year. “That is what potential investors look for when developing properties. To bring U.S. 117 on as I-795 would be one more strong asset toward improving and strengthening Sampson County’s economy.”

Lockamy said the new road is already getting plenty of use, which bodes well for the counties through which motorists are navigating.

“I traveled that road Saturday evening going into Goldsboro and the traffic was bumper to bumper coming down it,” Lockamy noted. “The traffic is used to it now.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.

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