In 2000 NCDOT established a multimodal steering committee consisting of 13 members from all modes/functions, plus two ex-officio FHWA members, to guide the development of the Long Range Statewide Transportation Plan. This committee spent 18 months conducting a scoping process to determine available funding ($55 billion) and needs ($84 billion).
DOT planners started reviewing the State's infrastructure needs and developed two distinct methodologies for categorizing infrastructure concerns. The first method classified transportation facility and service needs into one of three tiers - statewide, regional or sub-regional - by interest and use. The statewide tier, for example, focuses on the needs of the infrastructure receiving the most use, i.e., Interstate, US routes, etc., and enabled NCDOT to identify a backbone network of 55 highway facilities (referred to as Strategic Highway Corridors) that represent 7 percent of NCDOT's highway miles but carry almost 50 percent of the State's traffic.
The second method categorized needs by programmatic improvement categories - maintenance, system preservation, modernization and expansion. Examining future needs in this manner helped enhance public policy dialogue concerning how NCDOT should prioritize use of limited financial resources. This method also provided a basis for comparison to past expenditures and investment patterns.
Then NCDOT did something it had not undertaken before; the agency began a 30-month public involvement process where it asked constituents to provide input on the general direction of the department. The question to the public, stakeholders and elected officials was simple: with limited resources, how could NCDOT best allocate its transportation dollars against a backdrop of growing needs?
Utilizing what NCDOT planners term an organic process breathed new life into the planning process. "The process took on a life of its own in 2003," says Assistant Programming Manager Al Avant. "People started calling and asking how the DOT was going to spend its $55 billion." Public comments were incorporated into the report, and the board approved the Long Range Statewide Plan in September 2004. Then the work of implementing the plan - the agency's blueprint for the next 25 years - began.