Improvements to Existing Roads Get Priority at Summit
Improvements to existing thoroughfares are being recommended for the Moore County portion of the state Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) as one way to ease traffic conditions.
But emphasis will continue on such needs as a Carthage N.C. 24-27 bypass.
County, municipal and community representatives took another hard look at the TIP recommendations for 2009-2015 at their second planning session Wednesday afternoon at the Agriculture Center in Carthage.
Participants proposed im-provements to the route from N.C. 73 to McCaskill Road in preference to the Nicks Creek Juniper Lake Road Parkway idea. This route was suggested because of the existing system, but members of the group suggested that the Nicks Creek proposal remain in consideration as an option.
Spokesmen for Carthage reiterated their strong desire for a bypass to relieve traffic congestion through their downtown and around the historic courthouse, centered in a circle that must be navigated by east-west traffic along N.C. 22-24-27.
"The vast majority of the people recognize that we need a bypass," said Carthage Town Commissioner Sherwood Lap-ping. "We desperately need a bypass."
Lapping said that heavy traffic moves through Carthage's historic district and that the existing street cannot be widened. He said the bypass must be designed before the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) can carry out any other widening of N.C. 24-27, a key artery from U.S. 220 (Interstate 73/74) to U.S. 15-501.
N.C. 5 Widening
The issue of widening N.C. 5 between Aberdeen and Pinehurst was also discussed, along with the problems that would accompany such a project. That stretch of highway is relatively narrow by state highway standards and is heavily developed along both sides, including a railroad that flanks the route much of the way.
County Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who chaired the meeting, said that other improvements may be possible on N.C. 5, such as making it three lanes and adding turn lanes.
"We need to keep N.C. 5 in mind," Melton said. "We need to keep it on the table."
As for the Carthage bypass need, Melton said he had met with Carthage leaders and with Pat Strong, who coordinates the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization. Melton said a diversified group representing the Carthage community is studying the bypass situation.
The transportation summit also discussed expected growth with implementation of the BRAC (Base Realignment Commission) program, which calls for a major expansion at neighboring Fort Bragg. That growth is expected to have far-reaching effects on neighboring counties, including Moore.
However, participants pointed out that improvements must be taken from the perspective of other contiguous counties, because it won't do much good to improve roads in Moore County if drivers must converge onto unimproved roads enroute to Fort Bragg, in the Spring Lake community, for example.
Using Existing Highways
Speaking for the Seven Lakes Homeowners Association, Dave Kinney said the Seven Lakes transportation committee is interested in continuing a study of an earlier western bypass proposal. He said the committee appears to prefer the bypass to the western connector.
This led to further discussion of the need to study improvement to existing roads, rather than placing so much emphasis on building new roads.
Earl Ingram, an interested resident, said new roads disrupt families and have a negative impact on the environment.
"We should consider a feasibility study of alternatives," Ingram said. "Moore County is large enough for all families to enjoy a good lifestyle."
County Planning Director Andrea Surratt suggested that it might be better for the western bypass/connector project to be turned over to the Small Area A Steering Committee, which is working on a land-use plan especially for rural areas in and around Seven Lakes, West End, Eagle Springs and Jackson Springs.
Discussion also focused on a series of more recent concerns, such as improvement of U.S. 15-501 south in preparation for the Legacy Lakes development, the need to widen U.S. 15-501 from the Pinehurst Traffic Circle to Carthage, improvements to N.C. 22, and the U.S. 1 bridge interchange north of Midland Road at N.C. 22/Pee Dee Road.
In addition to the widening problems seen on N.C. 5, Aberdeen Town Commissioner Pat Ann McMurray called attention to the speed limit anomaly between Pinehurst and Aberdeen. The speed limit is 35 mph from Pinehurst to the Linden Road intersection, where it becomes 55 mph for a two-mile stretch that includes a sharp curve at the Habitat for Humanity building and a traffic signal light.
Then the speed limits drops to 45 mph for about a mile before becoming 35 mph all the way to the US 1 traffic signal light.
McMurray suggested that a more uniform speed limit, perhaps 45 mph, might be more practical.
Other suggestions still on the table for NCDOT to consider include improvement of signage to direct Chapel Hill traffic away from the Pinehurst Traffic Circle, a traffic signal at the intersection of Hoffman Road and N.C. 211, and turn lanes on both N.C. 5 and N.C. 211.
Surratt said she would compile the list of suggestions and would prepare a draft resolution for further consideration.
Transportation planners are under time restraints because of a looming NCDOT deadline for preparing the latest TIP update.
The meeting closed with a presentation by Strong, who reviewed the county's Comprehensive Transportation Plan and its relationship the TIP.
Strong distributed copies of state law enacted in 2001 setting up development of a coordinated transportation system with provisions for streets and highways in and around municipalities. His information included an update on progress by local municipalities.
The TARPO planning secretary raised some eyebrows when he advised the gathering that the day may come when NCDOT gives serious consideration to building highways on top of highways because widening existing highways or building new ones may be impossible due to population growth and development.
He said such a layering of U.S. 1 through Aberdeen and Southern Pines might be an example of a highway where the route could not be altered because of development.
However, he cautioned everyone to take this information lightly because such construction would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and, under present conditions, would not be remotely feasible.
TARPO, which operates under the Triangle J Council of Governments umbrella, conducts rural transportation planning for Chatham, Lee, Moore and Orange counties and to advise NCDOT on rural transportation policies and programs.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story