Leaders Eye Priorities on Road Work
Community leaders came to a transportation summit loaded with questions and comments Wednesday afternoon.
About 40 people crowded into the conference room at the Moore County Public Works Building for the two-hour session hosted by the county.
The event attracted representatives from the county, most municipalities, the Chamber of Commerce, N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the general public.
Delays in the N.C. 24-27 bypass of Carthage, reconsideration of the Nicks Creek-Juniper Lake Road project and widening improvements for N.C. 211 came to the forefront, as did objections to proposals to widen N.C. 5 from Pinehurst to Aberdeen.
"Our county is experiencing a tremendous amount of growth, and a lot of things have been put on the back burner," said County Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who presided.
Melton said the county cannot stop growth, but it can make sure that it is orderly.
"Roads are something you don't do right now," Melton said. "It's something you do way into the future -- up to 20 years in the future. We're going to keep transportation on the front burner and get the Department of Transpor-tation to stay on top of it."
Pat Strong, transportation planner for the Triangle Area Rural Transportation Organization, reviewed the process NCDOT follows in planning highway construction and improvement projects.
The Transportation Improve-ment Program (TIP) covers a seven-year period but is updated every two years.
The latest TIP covers the 2007-2013 years, and the summit was asked to consider changes and requests for the 2009-2015 TIP.
Agreement was reached on several items on the 2007-2013 list, but consensus on other projects, such as a route for the proposed N.C. 24-27 Carthage bypass, requires additional work.
Carthage Town Commissioner Sherwood Lapping said the community and the state were talking about the bypass when he moved here in the mid-1970s, and still there is no bypass. He said three routes were considered, but none has been agreed upon.
Lapping said the community needs to settle on a workable route and stick with it.
Strong said that N.C. 24 is part of a strategic corridor from Charlotte to Carteret County on the coast as planned by NCDOT.
Southern Pines Town Manager Reagan Parsons asked that the Nicks Creek-Juniper Lake Road project be reconsidered. He said the project was dropped earlier because of opposition expressed at a public meeting.
The streamlined route was proposed as a means of smoothing out traffic patterns. Summit participants pointed out, however, that the objections were raised by individuals, not by a local government or specific entity.
Aberdeen Town Commissioner Pat Ann McMurray reiterated action by her board in opposition to the widening of N.C. 5 from Pinehurst to U.S. 15-501 in Aberdeen.
This project is on the 2007-2013 TIP for a feasibility study, but several participants said that right of way would be practically impossible along the route, largely because it flanks a railroad.
Two bridge replacements in Aberdeen remain on the current TIP, and both represent safety needs.
The CSX railroad bridge on U.S. 15-501 is scheduled for replacement in the 2007 fiscal year.
The site is the scene of frequent accidents, especially those involving tractor-trailer truck rigs having difficulty making a sharp turn onto N.C. 1, said Giles Hopkins, recently retired as Aberdeen planning director. He was present in his capacity as mayor of Whispering Pines.
The project has been in the program for a number of years, and a subsequent design has pushed the estimated cost from $3 million to $9.3 million.
Strong explained that the costly redesign provides for a four-lane bridge, a change that is needed for the busy and dangerous span. The other long-delayed project is a new bridge at Aberdeen Lake.
Later in the meeting, when County Planning Director Andrea Surratt asked what is missing from the TIP list, Hopkins pointed out that the multi-laning of U.S. 15-501 south toward the Hoke County line will be needed once the new Legacy Lakes development gets under way.
Harry Huberth, chairman of the county Planning Board, pointed out that traffic jams frequently develop at the N.C. 22-Airport Road intersection.
Although a realignment of that intersection is planned by the airport and has been approved by NCDOT, it remains unfunded, Huberth said.
The intersection carries traffic to Sandhills Community College, The O'Neal School, and Whispering Pines as well as to the airport, businesses in Carthage and Southern Pines and along N.C. 22.
An N.C. 211 bypass of West End was discussed, but Huberth noted that this area is included in the Small Area A Plan under study by a special committee. He said the bypass should first be considered by that committee.
Participants mentioned the need to find solutions to transportation needs by building the minimum number of new roads.
Earl Ingram commented that Moore is a beautiful county and the people value the pines and other natural beauty. He said the building of more and more roads is no way to preserve that beauty.
"In solving one problem, we may create more problems," he said.
Another participant had an idea to alleviate some of the traffic congestion at the Pinehurst Traffic Circle. He proposed changes in signage on U.S. 1 to inform motorists traveling north toward Chapel Hill that they can remain on U.S. 1 and get to Chapel Hill just as quickly.
"We're all very proud of our county," Melton said. "If we start running new roads through virgin country, we generate more development. We need to look at improving existing roads. We don't need to see buildings sticking above the trees. Sometimes there are alternatives."
Melton went on to suggest that the county consider a bypass loop around the county that would accommodate through traffic.
Surratt told the group that priorities must be completed in time for a March 16 deadline for submission of county road improvement requests.
The county planning staff is to pull together the information presented at the Wednesday meeting and have it ready at a second meeting, scheduled Feb. 14 at a place to be announced.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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