RAD ramp up
Last week’s visit by U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx was provided the exclamation point for a big week in the River Arts District, with a combined $30 million committed toward improvement projects in the six-mile corridor along the French Broad River. More may be on the way. According to the Citizen-Times, Asheville could win as much as $8.5 million in additional funds for RAD projects, with decisions on some of the grants coming as soon as next week. As for funds already committed by the city, local leaders are hoping up to $3 million of the amount could come from from a $4.8 million pool of hotel tax money the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority plans to dole out next month.
News broke Friday afternoon of plans by Public Interest Projects to build a block of 32 new apartments behind the Aloft Hotel, along with commercial space. Mountain Xpress reporter Jake Frankel has details on the plan, which is set to go before City Council next week.
Despite a turnout of more than 600 to last week’s public hearing on fracking, the biggest story to come out of the Cullowhee event happened outside the room. Not long after the event (where the Citizen-Times reported sentiment was “overly against” fracking), the Sylva Herald reported a group of fracking “supporters” had been hired and bused in from a homeless shelter in Winston-Salem. After video of the group, whose members wore shirts provided by the N.C. Energy Coalition, emerged online, a spokesman for the organization acknowledged that a “homeless person” had been asked to leave the event after being identified. The spokesman didn’t answer any follow-up questions, according to this Citizen-Times report.
Special session nixed
If you were holding out hope for a special reconvening of the General Assembly this year, too bad. Gov. Pat McCrory announced late last week he would not call on lawmakers to return to Raleigh, an idea which had been floated near the end of last summer’s never-ending short session. “Frankly, I need a break from them,” the governor said, referring to his pals in the legislature. The governor’s decision leaves an economic incentives package on the table, and also means the state’s film incentives program is set to expire at the end of the year.
High hopes for highways
Rail, road and water transportation lines across the state are in need of improvement, and Gov. Pat McCrory has a billion-dollar plan to make it happen. Does he have the money? More on that in a second. On Thursday, the governor criss-crossed the state to announce his “25-Year Vision for North Carolina,” a plan to fund infrastructure projects from Murphy to Manteo. At a stop in Asheville, the governor focused on a component of the plan which would upgrade Highway 74 to interstate standards. In all, the price tag for the projects tallies well over $100 billion, but McCrory said he intends to ask lawmakers next year to fund the initial $1.5 billion by issuing revenue bonds. Expect to hear more about this in coming months.
Speaking of transportation, a new report labeled the proposed I-26 connector project as one of the biggest “highway boondoggles” in the country this week. According to the study, widening the 240 interchange near West Asheville would save drivers an average of 9.6 seconds in travel time. More on the findings in this post at Mountain Xpress.
Wanna be North Carolina’s next poet laureate? There’s a new criteria. After last summer’s scuffle over the governor’s appointment and quick-resignation of a little-known, self-published worker for the state Department of Health and Human Services, the state has created a new set of guidelines for the post. Along with being a state resident, a poet-laureate should at least have a “statewide, national or international reputation.” For the full criteria, click here.
In case you were wondering if U.S. Sen. Richard Burr would seek re-election in 2016, the answer is yes. Hill-watchers in Washington D.C. pressed the senator on the question this week, after hearing “rampant” rumors about his plans to retire. Not happening, he said.
Remember when Thom Tillis said U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s math was bad? Now his numbers don’t add up! At least that’s the message from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which released a new spot this week in response to the candidate’s previous ad. Keep an eye out for an ad responding to the response (or don’t). Meanwhile, Tillis got a little help from likely GOP presidential candidate this week, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stumping for Tillis at events in Wilmington on Tuesday. With 45 days to go before election day, a new poll show’s Hagan’s lead over Tillis is widening, we’ll see if it holds.
Get it straight
Still trying to sort out who the candidates are? The Citizen-Times has an interactive voter guide profiling each of November’s races in WNC. Click over here to check it out.
That’s all for this week! See ya on the next round.