The Downtown Greenway dodged a bullet in the form of a loss of funding from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), which was explained at the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (GUAMPO) meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Since the Downtown Greenway was first planned in 2001 and was the signature project of the Greensboro Bicentennial Committee in 2008, any funding hiccup that could result in more delays would not be appreciated.
The NCDOT is caught up in a cash crunch. Repairing the damage caused by the recent hurricanes cost the NCDOT hundreds of millions of dollars in unanticipated expenses, and when that was added to the expense of settling Map Act cases that the NCDOT estimates could end up costing as much as $1 billion, the NCDOT found itself short of cash.
The Map Act was a law that allowed the NCDOT to set land aside for future transportation use without actually purchasing the land. The owners couldn’t develop their land, which greatly diminished the value. It left landowners paying taxes on land that had little use until the state got around to purchasing it.
The Map Act was ruled unconstitutional, which resulted in the NCDOT having to settle with individual landowners all across the state. The NCDOT not only has to purchase the land, it has to compensate the landowners for legal fees, expenses and denying them the use their land for years.
All of that caused the NCDOT to be unable to fund the right-of-way acquisition for the old A&Y railroad line that forms most of the western side of the Downtown Greenway – the portion referred to as Phase 4. The city reached an agreement with the railroad to acquire the right-of-way in 2019, but the NCDOT at the last minute said the right-of-way acquisition funds wouldn’t be available until 2021.
Fortunately for Greensboro, Chairman of the NC Board of Transportation Mike Fox, who is also a member of the GUAMPO, and NCDOT Division Engineer Mike Mills went to bat for Greensboro and the funding that was set aside for right-of-way acquisition will be used for construction in 2021.
So Greensboro lost its 2019 right-of-way acquisition funding but gained the same amount in 2021 construction funding for the Downtown Greenway.