Transportation getting around one of the greatest benefits of living in Catawba County is location, location, location. Strategically located for both businesses and residents, the Hickory metro area offers convenient access to the Piedmont Region and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina as well as major cities throughout the Southeast.
Catawba Countys transportation system is expanding dramatically and will continue to do so as transportation plans are implemented. US Hwy. 321 Freeway, opened recently, connects I-40 in Hickory with I-85 in Gastonia and handles more than 25,000 vehicles per day. Development activities around the four new interchanges on US 321 have already begun. The McDonald Parkway is the newest interchange on I-40 and provides a positive impact on economic development for US 70 and the Startown Road area.
Construction is currently underway on another new interchange on I-40. The new NC 16 Bypass will link NC 16 South directly to I-40 and is set to open by 2003 and the widening of NC 16 from Newton to Charlotte is scheduled to begin in 2002. Several other highway projects are also under construction and others will be underway soon. These projects will complement the areas major highway corridors: I-40, US 321, US 70, NC 127 and NC 16.
Recently, Catawba County became one of the few counties in North Carolina to have a county-wide public transit system. The Piedmont Wagon Transit System previously served the residents of Hickory, Newton and Conover. A merger of the countys human service transit system with Piedmont Wagon has resulted in a "general public" transit system that may be accessed by the majority of the countys residents. Piedmont Wagon has a vanpooling plan that will provide additional services to employers and employees throughout the region. In addition to local service, Greyhound provides inter-city bus service on a daily basis in Catawba County.
The Hickory Regional Airport is a full service, commercial airport, open 24 hours per day. US Airways Express provides the commercial service with five* daily flights linking with Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. More than 50,000 passengers use the airport annually. Budget and Hertz provide car rental service at the airport.
The next major expansion of passenger rail service in North Carolina will be through Catawba County. New service from Raleigh to Asheville, with stops in Hickory, should begin operation by 2005.
*Subject to change without notice
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