News Releases

2/4/2016: This Week at N.C. Transportation: NCDOT Creates One-Stop Shop for Drone Operators

This Week at N.C. Transportation: NCDOT Creates One-Stop Shop for Drone Operators

Posted 2/4/2016 11:35:17 AM

NCDOT seeks partners for 2016 Watch for Me NC Campaign; new DMV mobile office hits the road; fans reminded to not drink and drive      RALEIGH — The following are highlights from this week at the N.C. Department of Transportation. Several of the below stories are also featured in our weekly newscast, N.C. Transportation Now, which can be viewed by clicking here.   NCDOT Creates One-Stop Shop for NC Drone Operators As drones become more common in American households and businesses NCDOT is working to help promote safety on the air and on the ground by educating drone operators in our state.  Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the NCDOT Division of Aviation classify Drones, also called Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), flight operations by three categories: Recreational; Government; and Commercial. Starting January 2016, all government and commercial drone operators must obtain a permit from NCDOT’s Division of Aviation. At the direction of the North Carolina General Assembly, NCDOT launched a permitting system for commercial and government drone operators in North Carolina to help owners better understand restrictions on the use of their technology through a simple and efficient online process. Current and potential drone owners can find more information about state and federal drone regulations on the Division of Aviation’s website.    NCDOT Seeks New Partners for 2016 Watch for Me NC Campaign NCDOT is now accepting applications from communities interested in participating in the 2016 Watch for Me NC program, a nationally recognized bicycle and pedestrian education, safety and enforcement program. Communities looking to help address local pedestrian and bicycle safety are encouraged to apply by the February 23 deadline. Communities selected will receive free law enforcement training and technical assistance, as well as safety materials to support their local efforts such as bicycle lights, reflective arm bands and bumper stickers. Each community will also be eligible to receive advertising such as billboards, transit ads and public service announcements paid for by NCDOT. To learn more about the program or download an application, visit the Watch for Me NC website.     New DMV Mobile Office Hits the Road On Thursday, January 28, Columbus-area residents were the first in the state to experience North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicle’s new mobile office. About 30 customers visited the mobile office, which carries two driver license examiner stations and mirrors the driver license services that are offered in brick-and-mortar offices. After leaving Columbus on Thursday, the mobile office made stops in Hayesville and Robbinsville this week before returning to Columbus. DMV plans to add three more mobile offices that will make 70 stops throughout the state.   The new mobile offices are part of Governor McCrory’s Driving Change initiative at DMV to improve services and reduce wait times. To find the DMV office nearest you, including the mobile office schedule, visit DMV’s website.    Fans Don’t Let Fans Drink and Drive Many North Carolinians will be cheering on our home team Carolina Panthers this Super Bowl Sunday. No matter which team you’re pulling for, make sure you get home safely.   If you plan to drink, leave your keys at home. Designate a sober driver, whether it’s a friend, relative, taxi, ride share, public transportation, or app your ride. If you plan to drive, refrain from drinking any alcohol. Instead, enjoy the game with food and non-alcoholic drinks. Being a sober, designated driver is a key role on Super Bowl Sunday. You might just save a life. If you’re hosting a party, designate a responsible driver before the game begins.   Remember: Fans don’t let fans drink and drive. You’re smarter than that.   For more information on N.C. Transportation Now, contact the NCDOT Communications Office at (919) 707-2660. Additional news stories from throughout the week can be found on NCDOT's online newsroom.
Release Image
Click this image to view at original resolution
***NCDOT***
View on NCDOT.gov

2/4/2016: NCDOT Seeks New Partners for 2016 Watch for Me NC Campaign

NCDOT Seeks New Partners for 2016 Watch for Me NC Campaign

Posted 2/4/2016 9:05:49 AM

RALEIGH - The N.C. Department of Transportation is now accepting applications from communities interested in participating in the Watch for Me NC 2016 program.    Watch for Me NC is a nationally recognized bicycle and pedestrian safety, education, and enforcement program. It uses a comprehensive and data-driven approach to increase public awareness and expand local capacity to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.    The program is led by participating community coalitions, with technical support and safety materials provided by NCDOT and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. Watch for Me NC expanded into a statewide campaign in 2014 after a successful 2012-2013 pilot program in the Triangle region. The 2016 campaign is supported by the NCDOT Governor’s Highway Safety Program in partnership with the NCDOT Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation.       The program is seeking new communities in North Carolina looking to help address pedestrian and bicycle safety. Interested communities can learn more about the program or download an application on the Watch for Me NC website. Applications are due Feb. 23, 2016.       Communities selected to participate will receive free law enforcement training, technical assistance and safety materials to support their local efforts. Safety materials include bicycle lights, reflective arm bands, bumper stickers, brochures, posters and banners that have pedestrian and bicycle safety messages. English and Spanish materials are available. Each community will also be eligible to receive advertising such as billboards, transit ads and public service announcements paid for by NCDOT. Applicants must demonstrate support from local law enforcement agencies such as local government and campus police and the capacity to participate fully in the program.     NCDOT will host a webinar for prospective applicants at 3 p.m. on Jan. 19 to better inform communities about the program, its requirements and the application process. Registration is available online. The webinar will also be recorded and posted to the Watch for Me NC website. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to view the webinar.   Past Watch for Me NC participants are encouraged to continue their involvement in 2016. Those communities must submit an abbreviated application showing their commitment to meeting the program’s full intent.   "Watch for Me NC is a unique resource for communities interested in making measurable improvements to pedestrian and bicycle safety,” said Lauren Blackburn, director of the NCDOT Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. “The combination of law enforcement, strategic public education, and material and technical support provided to local stakeholders all contribute to its success.”   
Release Image
Click this image to view at original resolution
***NCDOT***  
View on NCDOT.gov

1/15/2016: NCDOT Creates One-Stop Shop for NC Drone Operators

NCDOT Creates One-Stop Shop for NC Drone Operators

Posted 1/15/2016 4:43:42 PM

RALEIGH – As drones become more common in American households and businesses, the N.C. Department of Transportation is working to help promote safety on the air and on the ground by educating drone operators in our state.  Drones, also called Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), offer a wide variety of uses – from tech-loving hobbyists to professional photographers, university researchers, agricultural operations and government organizations. Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the NCDOT Division of Aviation classify UAS flight operations by three categories:Recreational – Any UAS flight that is conducted solely for recreation.Government – Any UAS flight conducted by a government entity to support their work.Commercial – Any UAS flight that serves a business purpose or provides a business benefit, even if that benefit is indirect.At the direction of the North Carolina General Assembly, NCDOT launched a permitting system for commercial and government UAS operators in North Carolina. The system is designed to help UAS owners better understand restrictions on the use of their technology through a simple and efficient online process. Starting January 2016, all government and commercial UAS operators must obtain a permit from NCDOT’s Division of Aviation. “This permitting process will help educate UAS owners,” said N.C. Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson. “We want to encourage safe and responsible drone operations in North Carolina.” To obtain a permit, users must first pass the North Carolina UAS Operators Knowledge Test. A guide is available to help users study before taking the test.  In addition to passing the Knowledge Test, users must meet certain FAA requirements to obtain a commercial or government operator permit in North Carolina. The full requirements are available on the Division of Aviation website (ncdot.gov/aviation). Operators who meet all requirements will receive a paper permit, similar to a driver license, that they will be required to keep with them while conducting commercial or government UAS operations.  Recreational users are not required to complete the permit process, but are strongly encouraged to review the study guide and take the Knowledge Test to better understand UAS regulations in North Carolina.  UAS operators, whether recreational, government or commercial, should keep in mind that North Carolina has laws governing drone use. Drone users are subject to all North Carolina laws, even if UAS technology is not mentioned in the specific statute.  UAS owners must also register drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds with the FAA. More information about registration is available on the FAA’s UAS website (faa.gov/uas/registration).  Current and potential drone owners can find more information about state and federal UAS regulations on the Division of Aviation’s website. 
Release Image
Click this image to view at original resolution
***NCDOT***
View on NCDOT.gov

1/7/2016: NCDOT Year in Review

NCDOT Year in Review

Posted 1/7/2016 11:07:46 AM

NCDOT's 2015 Annual Performance Report Now Available Raleigh — 2015 was a milestone year for the N.C. Department of Transportation, not only because it marked the department’s centennial, but also because it saw a number of major reforms aimed at modernizing and stabilizing the funding available for transportation improvements across the state. Over the past century, North Carolina’s transportation system has evolved from rudimentary farm-to-market roads to a comprehensive multimodal network that connects people and places and serves as a significant economic engine for our state, and much of the focus throughout 2015 was on ensuring that the state’s transportation infrastructure continues to support North Carolina’s growing and diverse needs. “Governor McCrory had ambitious goals for infrastructure investment and efficiency when he took office. The Strategic Transportation Investments law he proposed and signed in 2013 and the budget he signed in 2015 put those goals into action,” Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said. “In the 2015 budget, significant steps were taken to ensure that we have increased and more stable funding for transportation improvements that will allow us to continue investing in our infrastructure and position our state for ongoing success.” Strategic Transportation Investments Law and Governor’s 25-Year Vision Efforts to reform how transportation projects are prioritized for funding began in 2013 with the passage of the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) law, which laid the foundation for additional changes. The law established a more efficient, data-driven formula to allocate funding transportation improvements on the statewide, regional and division levels, with the goal of meeting the state's top priorities while providing flexibility to address individualized local needs. NCDOT’s first State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) developed using the new formula was approved by the N.C. Board of Transportation in June 2015, marking a major milestone for the department and the culmination of two years of work to implement the new process. The STIP is the department’s 10-year construction schedule for transportation projects. This STIP demonstrates that the new formula is working as intended to make the best possible use of existing resources, with the inclusion of nearly three times more highway projects than under the previous funding formula. In addition, the nearly 1,100 projects across all modes of transportation contained within the plan include improvements in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, another indication that the new formula and process are benefiting every area of the state. Along with this good news, however, the development of the STIP also highlighted a substantial challenge: despite allowing NCDOT to pay for more projects, only about 18 percent of the projects submitted for consideration under the new process actually made it into the 10-year work plan due to available funding, clearly indicating that additional revenues are necessary to meet all of North Carolina’s current and future transportation needs. It also underscored the need for strategic transportation investment over the long-term, which is the primary focus of Gov. McCrory’s 25-Year Vision for transportation in North Carolina, released in September 2014. Funding Stability and Diversification One of NCDOT’s highest priorities in 2015 was working with both state and federal leaders to achieve much-needed funding stability and increase the resources available for transportation improvements. On the state level, Gov. McCrory and the N.C. General Assembly took steps to modernize and stabilize NCDOT’s major funding streams through the passage of several bills including the new biennial budget. Legislation passed earlier in the session revamped the formula used to calculate the state’s motor fuels tax, which serves as the most significant source of state transportation revenue, to make it more reliable and sustainable. The state budget bill kept these changes intact and made some additional updates, including increasing DMV fees and indexing them for inflation. These fees account for about 25 percent of state transportation revenue and had not been adjusted in a decade. Also, ending the annual transfer of $216 million from the Highway Fund to the General Fund ensures that more transportation revenues will go directly toward transportation improvements. As a result of action taken in the budget, an additional $1.6 billion is projected to be available for transportation construction projects across the state over the next 10 years. The extra money is being allocated according to the STI law and will allow the department to fund 92 new sections of highways and 23 new non-highway projects, as well as accelerating the schedules of another 90 highway projects and 43 non-highway projects already included in the STIP. In addition, the budget is providing nearly $500 million more in funding to maintain and operate our transportation system over the next two years, allowing the department to make a greater investment in taking care of existing highways and bridges. These funds are allocated across the state based on need. On the federal level, policy stability, but less significant revenue impact, was provided with the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) in December, the first long-term federal transportation funding bill since 2005. Prior to its passage, state DOTs faced a series of short-term extensions that made it difficult to plan for the future. NCDOT currently receives about $1 billion a year in federal funding, which accounts for almost a fifth of its current $4.4 billion budget. Under the new act, the department estimates a 2.8 percent annual average increase in highway funding and a 3.4 percent annual average increase in transit funding over the life of the bill. To generate further revenue for transportation, NCDOT has also sought to diversify its funding stream through the use of alternatives like tolling, public-private partnerships and private sponsorships. North Carolina’s first modern toll road, the Triangle Expressway in Wake and Durham counties, has continued to exceed traffic and revenue projections since it first opened to traffic in December 2011. Revenue in fiscal year 2015 was $5.3 million higher than projected in 2009, and year-over-year growth in traffic averaged approximately 24 percent. NCDOT also reached a milestone in May with the start of construction on the Monroe Expressway, a roughly 20-mile toll highway that will provide an alternative for high-speed regional travel along the U.S. 74 corridor in Mecklenburg and Union counties and is expected to open to traffic in late 2018. Also in May, the department and private partner I-77 Mobility Partners reached financial close on the I-77 Express Lanes project in the Charlotte region, the state’s first major transportation public-private partnership (P3). The express lanes will provide drivers along 26 miles of the I-77 corridor from Charlotte to Mooresville a choice to pay a toll and use the express lanes to avoid travel delays or continue driving on the general-purpose lanes for free. The private contractor began construction in November. A P3 brings private equity to the development of public infrastructure, and in the case of the I-77 Express Lanes, this funding mechanism will allow NCDOT to address congestion along this corridor in less than four years. It also brings more than $500 million in private funding to build the improvements.  The state retains ownership of the right of way and will receive the facility in a fully maintained condition at the end of the agreement. NCDOT is also moving forward with the use of private sponsorships to help cover the cost of delivering some of its operational programs and services, including an agreement with State Farm® for sponsorship of the department’s Incident Management Assistance Patrols that help clear highway incidents and offer roadside assistance on major interstate routes. In addition, the N.C. Ports Authority, in partnership with USA Investco, broke ground in June on a new cold storage facility at the Port of Wilmington that will support North Carolina’s agriculture industry, as well as moving forward with a wood pellet export facility at the Port of Wilmington with private partner Enviva that will support another key industry for the state. Herbert C. Bonner Bridge Another of Gov. McCrory’s and NCDOT’s major priorities was accomplished after years of delay when a settlement agreement was reached in June that will allow the department to replace the aged Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks. NCDOT built the existing bridge in 1963 to extend N.C. 12 over the Oregon Inlet, providing better access and service for residents and visitors of Hatteras Island. As many as 13,000 vehicles now cross over the bridge during peak travel days in the summer, and the bridge plays an important part in North Carolina’s $19.4 billion a year tourism industry as one quarter of the county’s overall economic impact comes from Hatteras Island tourism alone. Construction is expected to begin on the replacement bridge, parallel to the existing one, in spring 2016. NCDOT is also set to begin construction this spring on an interim N.C. 12 bridge on Pea Island where an existing temporary bridge was erected after Hurricane Irene breached the highway in 2011. The interim bridge will be easier to maintain than the existing temporary bridge, and it will provide safe access for the area while the department studies options for a long-term solution at this location. In addition, plans to construct a 2.5-mile-long Pamlico Sound bridge, known as a “jug handle,” from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge into Rodanthe will be completed over the next 18 months. This area includes a section of N.C. 12 known locally as the “S-curves,” which was also damaged by Hurricane Irene. The department chose this design over a bridge along the existing route of N.C. 12 because it minimizes impacts to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, the ocean shoreline and the Rodanthe community. Reducing Wait Times and Improving Customer Service at DMV Gov. McCrory identified customer service as a priority for all aspects of state government. In response, the N.C. Division Motor Vehicles has introduced a broad range of improvements over the past year that build on previous measures to help reduce wait times and improve customer service at DMV offices throughout North Carolina. These efforts began in 2013 when DMV introduced extended and weekend hours at 19 driver license offices. As a result, 85 percent of North Carolina residents are now within a 30-mile radius of an office with these extra hours. Today the number of extended hour offices has grown to 21 sites. The division also conducted a Reduce Wait Times Pilot, which tested various time saving measures and customer service amenities at 25 of North Carolina’s busiest driver license offices. In October, Gov. McCrory announced upgrades that would be made throughout North Carolina over the coming year based on this pilot, including the addition of cameras and other equipment at every license examiner station to help speed up service, self-service kiosks to provide access to online services, and the acceptance of credit and debit cards at driver license offices. At the same time, Gov. McCrory also announced full implementation of online driver license renewal, which DMV had begun testing in June 2015. More than 30,000 customers renewed their driver license online in a one-month period during this pilot. Online renewals actually exceeded or matched the in person renewals during two weekly periods and today more than 200,000 citizens have renewed their license online. By eliminating the need to visit a driver license office in person for some transactions, DMV is helping reduce wait times for everyone. The division’s goal is to have 30 percent (about 600,000) of all eligible license renewals in a year completed online.  Other available online services include applications for duplicate licenses and address changes for driver licenses and vehicle registration. Along with all these efforts, DMV is also debuting new more durable and secure driver licenses and has also introduced new more efficient, state-of-the-art mobile units that can provide driver license services anywhere in the state. These mobile units will be transported in specially outfitted SUVs, and are expected to serve more than 20,000 customers during stops in their first year of operation, nearly three times the number of customers served annually by the division’s current RV-style mobile units. The division also plans to increase the number of stops made by the mobile units, which will eventually allow it to serve more than 36,000 customers annually. Seven current part-time DMV offices will be served by the new mobile units, resulting in additional cost savings. The new units also cost 70 percent less to purchase than the current mobile units, and as a result of all these savings, the division estimates that the cost for processing each driver license or ID card application through mobile service will decrease by 60 percent. Priorities for 2016 Following a landmark year, the department will continue to execute all these major initiatives. For example, the Strategic Transportation Investments law requires NCDOT to continually refine its process for prioritizing projects, including continued use of a work group to develop improvements. Creation of the next STIP using an updated prioritization process will largely be completed during 2016. While increased funding stability has been achieved at both the state and federal levels, the state still faces a great need for sustainable funding sources that offer increased certainty for transportation improvements over the long term. At both state and federal levels, motor fuels tax represents the largest source of funding, but changes to the fuel efficiency and alternative fuels usage will translate into reduced revenue from that old stand-by. Collaboration will be needed at all levels to devise sustainable solutions that will help fulfill Gov. McCrory’s 25-Year Vision and ensure North Carolina’s continued well-being. The Division of Motor Vehicles will continue implementing its new technologies and customer service improvements at more offices throughout the state. The new mobile units, which are currently being tested in several communities, will be deployed across North Carolina in the coming year. Increased promotion of the available online services should yield substantial time savings for both citizens and staff in 2016 and beyond. “We are proud of the milestones we have achieved over this past year, and we thank our many partners for their support of North Carolina’s transportation system,” Secretary Tennyson said. “Through a concerted team effort, we are making investments today that will help meet current and future demands on our transportation infrastructure and greatly benefit our state over the long run. We look forward to similar progress in 2016 and welcome the opportunity to continue serving our state in such a vital way.” More information regarding NCDOT’s recent performance and achievements is included in the department’s 2015 Annual Performance Report.
Release Image
Click this image to view at original resolution

View on NCDOT.gov

12/2/2015: NCDOT Ferry Division Extends Peak Season Schedules In 2016

NCDOT Ferry Division Extends Peak Season Schedules In 2016

Posted 12/2/2015 11:59:40 AM

MANNS HARBOR - Summer travel season is getting a little longer on the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Ferry System. The North Carolina Ferry Division released its 2016 schedules today, and while most 2015 departure times remained intact, the Ferry Division made a few adjustments to the timing of seasonal summer schedules after analyzing ridership data from previous years. Among the changes: Summer schedules were lengthened by four weeks on the two Pamlico Sound routes (Swan Quarter-Ocracoke and Cedar Island-Ocracoke), now starting the first week of May and ending during the last week of September. The summer schedule was adjusted forward on the Hatteras-Ocracoke route, starting later in the Spring (May 24), but ending later in the fall (October 10). “We are always taking a look at ridership patterns and adjusting our schedules accordingly,” said Ferry Division Director Ed Goodwin. “We’ve noticed more ridership on our Pamlico Sound routes in the spring, with passenger totals on the Hatteras route now staying strong into October. We’ve made a few changes in the schedule in an effort to meet that demand while remaining responsible with taxpayer dollars.” The only other 2016 schedule change is an added off-season weekend run on the Southport-Fort Fisher route. No changes were made to the Currituck-Knotts Island, Bayview-Aurora, or Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach routes. The complete 2016 schedule can be found online at http://www.ncdot.gov/download/transit/ferry/ferryschedule2016.pdf.(NCDOT)
Release Image
Click this image to view at original resolution

View on NCDOT.gov