Cover Story: Gateway to Morganton

By Steve Ohnesorge - bio | email

Morganton, NC (WBTV)- The city of Morganton wants to stand out in a crowd, or at least to travelers heading through the area on Interstate 40.

Right now there's a proposal to turn an I-40 overpass into a gateway leading to the city.

Sounds pretty, but in this recession a lot of people want to know if pouring money into it will really pay off in the end.

WBTV's Steve Ohnesorge looked into the proposal in tonight's Cover Story.

All the I-40 exits near Morganton look like any other spots along the highway to the 14 million cars that pass by every year.

Downtown business leaders want something else at the exit overpass to lure people in here.

A Morganton resident said, "Anything that we can do to enhance our community."

And that "anything"would be an interstate overpass transformed into a gateway to the city of Morganton.

The opportunity comes when the state tears down a lot of old construction next year, everything here is slated to be replaced.

We're told the state is replacing the bridge, surfacing the road, and widening the road.

The city will have to spend a million dollars moving sewer lines, water lines, and all the power lines as well.

For another two to three hundred thousand they could transform the area into four towers, and artistic rock walls, and hopefully something that would lure people in to town.

Many think the payoff would more than justify the cost.

But taxpayer Johnny Smith says hold on "I definitely say it's not the time."

He likes the idea of this, but budgets now are too tight he says and the economic future uncertain.

Smith says, "I don't think we need to be spending any more tax money than we are already spending."

Now the project is just a concept right now, just an idea in the very early stages.  It's not even slated to go before city council yet.

It would have to be approved by the Department of Transportation first, the city would have to find the extra money and the overpass project would have to start as scheduled.