GREENSBORO — Transportation officials boosted the budget Wednesday by more than $4 million in state highway funds to widen U.S. 70 near a planned supermarket distribution center in eastern Guilford County.
The Greensboro-area Metropolitan Planning Organization voted unanimously to add the money to complete the widening between Mount Hope Church and Birch Creek roads, near the site of a planned $300 million Publix Super Markets distribution center.
Among other benefits, the 1.2-mile highway project will help serve the Publix development, said Mike Mills, a division engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The planned widening is now in the land-buying phase with construction expected to be completed in about four years at a cost of just less than $8.3 million. The distribution center has a 2022 target date.
When asked by MPO member Tammi Thurm, who also sits on the Greensboro City Council, why the price tag was going up so much, Mills said estimates sometimes change as planners finalize their designs.
“This is a more refined estimate,” Mills said.
State DOT permanently closed a section of Birch Creek Road for the 350-acre distribution center in August, several days before Gov. Roy Cooper announced that Publix had been successfully recruited to the McLeansville site.
The local MPO group oversees projects in much of Guilford County outside of High Point, with voting members who include six elected officials from city, county and town governments.
The distribution center is expected to bring up to 1,000 jobs with pay averaging about $44,000 per year.
In other action Wednesday, the MPO approved using $955,000 in federal money to buy a pair of “clean diesel” buses to replace part of the existing Greensboro Transit Authority fleet that is too old to operate economically.
Staff members said replacing buses with too many miles on the odometer is “key to reducing maintenance costs, increasing fleet reliability and helping to ensure adequate fleet capacity to meet daily requirements.”
The federal grant requires the city to contribute $169,000 in local money for the new buses.
GTA officials said that even after the buses arrive, their fleet would include 16 buses that are past their “useful life.”
City transportation director Adam Fischer told the planning organization that local officials needed to proceed with the diesel purchase even though GTA’s long-range plan involves switching to an all-electric bus fleet.
He said federal rules earmarked the money specifically for diesel equipment, adding that the new buses would include advanced filtering technology to sharply reduce air pollution.
The MPO board also voted unanimously to delay replacing two aging bridges.
Board members agreed to push back by three years replacement of the I-40 bridge over South Buffalo Creek so the $11.7 million project could be coordinated with plans to widen the interstate through that part of southeast Greensboro during 2022.
They also delayed improvements to the Willow Road bridge over I-40 until the 2020 fiscal year. Planners said that would allow them to combine the $3.5 million project with replacement of a similar bridge on Patton Avenue.