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What NCTA said, SELC said on TriEx plans ...

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As the NC Turnpike Authority moves closer to selling bonds, signing contracts and breaking ground -- possibly by the end of July -- on the $1 billion, 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway, the Southern Environmental Law Center is claiming that the agency overstated likely traffic and toll revenues by as much as 50 percent (see today's Road Worrier column with reader comments).

Here are more details of the claims and counter claims, with links to supporting documents.

Kulash and SELC base their critique on the traffic and revenue study (a 21MB pdf) conducted for NCTA by Wilbur Smith Associates.

The SELC's consultant, Walter Kulash, said NCTA ...
* understated high gas prices that will suppress driving and reduce turnpike traffic;
* overlooked plans for a little loop road called the Apex Peakway that will ease congestion on NC 55 and reduce turnpike traffic; and
* ignored "smart growth" trends that will reduce overall driving and turnpike traffic.

Here are links to nine-page Kulash letter, and to cover letter to NCTA from David Farren of SELC.

The NCTA's consultant, Wilbur Smith Associates, replied that Kulash ...
* made an uneven comparison between average future gas prices predicted by Smith and NCTA ($3) and by the federal government ($5.63). Kulash used 2007 dollars for the former and future dollars for the latter. The feds' forecast would translate to about $3.80 in current dollars, Smith said, compared to the NCTA forecast for about $3 in current dollars.
* overstated the status, funding, purpose and likely benefits of the Apex Peakway. Kulash said it will be finished in 2015 as a four-lane bypass for NC 55, pulling 12,000 cars a day off the turnpike. Citing updates from Apex town officials, NCTA and Smith responded that there are no plans to make the Peakway more than two lanes, there is no design or funding to finish it, and it will not act as a bypass for NC 55.

Here is a link to responses from Wilbur Smith and NCTA, as emailed Monday to The N&O. I've combined three NCTA files into a single word document.

David Farren of SELC said NCTA should rerun its traffic and revenue forecast. Smith Associates and NCTA said they stand by their initial study.

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About the blogger

Bruce Siceloff reports on traffic and transportation. A News & Observer reporter, editor and blogger since 1976, he took over the Road Worrier column in 2003. Lately he drives I-40 with the cruise control set at 68 mph. You can e-mail Bruce, call him at 919-829-4527, check out his Crosstown Traffic blog or follow him (@Road_Worrier) on Twitter.
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