Council endorses future transportation projections

Franklin N.C. Town Hall photo by Vickie Carpenter

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

Monday night marked the first meeting of the new council for the town of Franklin. New council members Jack Horton and Mike Lewis were sworn into office for the first time, while Mayor Bob Scott and council members Joe Collins and Dinah Mashburn were sworn in to resume their seats. 

One of the first orders of business for the new board was to address the future needs of transportation in Macon County. While road construction around Macon County seems to be never ending and a new project pops up weekly, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is already planning for the future. During Monday night’s meeting, the new council unanimously voted to approve a letter of support for the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s growth projections for the Macon County Comprehensive Transportation Plan. 

NCDOT seeks the endorsement of the projections from local governments before they can use them in the traffic forecast and future planning endeavors. 

“This is an opportunity for the town council to provide information to the Southwestern RPO and the N.C. Department of Transportation so the agencies may assist in updating the comprehensive transportation plan,” NCDOT communications officer David Uchiyama said. “The information may be concrete numbers or an overall vision — anything that may assist the agencies in helping provide transportation and multi-modal infrastructure in the future.”

The NCDOT, the Southwestern Rural Planning Organization, and Macon County are in the process of updating the comprehensive transportation plan, which is a long-range model plan which identifies potential transportation needs over the next 25 years. The plan identifies growth patterns that will be used to develop planning into the year 2045. 

During the process, the NCDOT will be analyzing current and future travel patterns in order to determine where the transportation network may experience congestion or other deficiencies. Prior to being able to develop traffic forecasts for 2045, NCDOT will need to make certain assumptions about the county’s anticipated growth. Various factors are included in the process including the county’s comprehensive plan, demographic data, and local knowledge. NCDOT has worked in conjunction with the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) Steering Committee to verify population and employment trends within the county, as well as geographic distribution of growth and development. 

The council approved the following projections Monday night: 

Population: The average annual growth rate for Macon County’s population from 1990-2017 was 1.2 percent. The CTP Steering Committee concurs that using the historical average annual growth rate of 1.2 percent to project future population is reasonable and appropriate. 

Employment: Future employment numbers were calculated based on recent trends in employment to population ratio of approximately .42. The CTP Steering Committee concurs that this ratio can be expected to continue. Future employment numbers were calculated by multiplying the population estimates by the ratio of .42.

Traffic Forecast Methodology: NCDOT will analyze historic traffic count data and use a linear projection as a base estimate for 2045 traffic volumes. The default historic growth rate will be adjusted for areas that that CTP Steering Committee determines are likely to grow at a higher or lower rate. Roads with higher potential growth rate will use a rate of 1.5 percent or the historical rate, whichever is higher. Roads with lower potential for growth will use .1 percent of the historical rate, whichever is higher.