The Pinehurst Hot Mess: NCDOT board member unloads on Pinehurst council

Pat Molamphy is well-known around Moore County as a respected businessman who cares a lot about this community.  He serves on the state Transportation Department’s governing board and often finds himself in the middle of a lot of big transportation policy decisions.

We were blessed with a copy of a recent email from Molamphy to Pinehurst village councilman Pat Pizzella.  Let’s say that Molamphy gave Pizzella and his village hall colleagues one hell of a serious reality check:

[…]Pat, was out of town this week, following up on your note.

I think Highway 5 is set for construction in 2025, 4 lane divided from the far end of Linden to US 1.

Pat, we need to set something straight. The initial charge to the engineers was to try to come up with a fix that kept the Circle intact, mainly at the request of Pinehurst officials. That was an unmitigated disaster, yielding no solid solutions, so we had to see what the engineers could come up with, no caveats or strings attached.

That is where we are now, two options. After re-watching the June meeting, then the meeting Tuesday, the Village of Pinehurst is very close to making themselves irrelevant in this process.

Saying we’re going to push the “pause” button isn’t the right answer. The VOP pushed the pause button back in June. This project was initially scored in 2015, and incidentally, Mr. Strickland was in the meeting when we discussed the long range plans for the Circle.

The Circle project scored so well, that with max points from Divisions 8, and max points from the RPO, the Traffic Circle eventually became a committed project, and funded under the Regional category (D8 doesn’t win a lot of Regional funding, we compete with D10). One of the reasons it was funded as a Regional project was the negative impacts to US 15/501 going forward. It’s not the intent of STI to allow Municipal leadership to think they have a “Veto” power over a funded project, especially since it was championed by the Moore County Transportation Committee, who in turn championed the project at TARPO, who in turn worked with D8 to get the project funded.

What we’d like is to work with the Village on a solution, but delaying is not an option. The department has spent well in excess of $1,000,000 in consultants and staff time trying to come up with any and all possible solutions. The inaction on the part of Pinehurst elected officials has placed the Division leadership in a very precarious position.

One, walk away front the project at this point, and let the funding status lapse, and the $50+ million dollars go back into the Regional bucket of money. How excited do you think TARPO and the Division will be to try to get this project funded at some point in the future if we walk away now?

It’s been 8 years since we started the process, only for Pinehurst wanting to “Pause” now. The other viable option at this time is to move forward with a project, and chalk up the inability of VOP leadership as just that, inability to lead, inability to govern.

The Department is not in a position to go back to square one and start this process over again. I watch these meetings and it’s evident that many on council are not real familiar with the NC STI law, the process, and the lead times from when projects get submitted, to when the projects start right of way, then construction.

I’d be glad to sit down and discuss STI, what projects are funded, and how the next round of programming will evolve. On the circle, my advice would be to keep yourselves relevant, and the pause button does not accomplish relevance.