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As Governor Pat McCrory said in his State of the State Address last month, continued transportation infrastructure investment is critical to North Carolina’s future, and it plays an integral role in job creation, economic development and overall quality of life.

To that end, 2014 was a landmark year in transportation that included many milestones that will help better meet North Carolina’s growing transportation needs. From implementation of a new transportation funding formula that will result in more transportation improvements supporting more jobs and economic opportunities, to the debut of Gov. McCrory’s 25-Year Vision for strategic investment in transportation throughout the state, the N.C. Department of Transportation continues to make great strides in its efforts to leverage North Carolina’s transportation infrastructure and provide better connections to work, life and play.

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The N.C. Department of Transportation has launched a new website for Walk Bike NC, a statewide plan for improving pedestrian and bicycle mobility. WalkBikeNC.com provides many features, including digital information from the plan and a new online mapping tool showcasing thousands of miles of signed bicycle routes in North Carolina.

The website’s online map shows NCDOT-designated, onroad bicycle routes, first developed and signed in the 1970s and 1980s. In the past, route information had only been available via paper map order through the NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Division.

WalkBikeNC.com allows cyclists to create turn-by-turn directions and check elevation profiles for the state’s bicycle routes. These online features will make bicycle tour planning easier for visitors and residents and compliment other online mapping services.

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Pointing to the rising cost of housing, the local living wage level has also increased, the Asheville-based nonprofit Just Economics announced last month. The nonprofit, which has set a living wage standard for area employers since 2008, defines a living wage as “the amount a worker needs to make in order to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance.” Now, that amount is $12.50 an hour or $11 an hour if the employer offers health insurance. Since 2013, the living wage was $11.85 without insurance or $10.35 an hour with it.

The new living wage totals to about $26,000 a year without insurance or $22,880 with, assuming a 40-hour work week. The nonprofit considers workers who receive tips as receiving a living wage if their wage plus tips exceeds that amount.

The towns of Montreat and Weaverville, as well as Buncombe County and the city of Asheville, all use the nonprofit’s living wage standards to set the baseline for their public employees’ wages. Asheville, however, has an exception to the living wage rate that’s currently the topic of some debate.

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The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is joining forces with the Veterans Leadership Council of North Carolina – Cares to better assist veterans that come in contact with the criminal justice system.

Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry signed a memorandum of agreement with the VLC. The charitable organization is in the process of developing a facility to provide transitional housing and therapeutic services to homeless and at-risk Veterans throughout North Carolina.

This facility will be known as the Veterans Life Center.

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