County Approves Road Projects Plan
A state Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) has been stripped of two items, and one route has been removed from the Carthage bypass proposal.
The Moore County Board of Commissioners approved the altered plan following a Monday night public hearing marked by passionate pleas from residents of areas affected by the plan.
Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who chaired the county's transportation study summit, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Removed from the proposal were a feasibility study for a western connector around Pinehurst, a feasibility study for the Nicks Creek Parkway-Juniper Road thoroughfare connection and the Needmore segment from the routes proposed for the N.C. 24-27 bypass of Carthage.
The audience burst into applause after the commissioners voted on the changed plan.
After the meeting, Melton said the changes would not affect the work under way by a special committee appointed to work on the Carthage bypass routing and other special road projects. During the meeting, Melton said he might ask some of the Needmore speakers to serve on the committee.
"We're trying to look at ways to improve things without tearing up our countryside," Melton said during the commissioners' discussion after the hearing had ended and before a vote was taken. "We're dealing with a changing world."
Melton warned that residents are moving to Moore County in large numbers and communities must accept this growth. Speaking from personal experience, he said that the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) widened Roseland Road, where he lives, a number of years ago, and the changes were not all that difficult. He said the shoulders were improved and turn lanes were constructed to make the road less hazardous and easier to traverse.
If the Juniper Lake Road is improved in similar fashion, Melton said, the residents there might find that changes are not all that bad.
"If we don't start planning now, it will be worse in the future," Melton said. "If traffic continues to grow, you may not be able to get out of your driveways."
Twelve speakers addressed the board about the highway proposal. Eleven spoke during the hearing, and the 12th spoke during the public-comment period held prior to the meeting, apparently in a misunderstanding over the county's agenda makeup. Most expressed opposition to one or more aspects of the plan.
'Eradicate a Community'
Residents of the Needmore community in Carthage objected to a proposed bypass route that "would eradicate a community," in the words of O'Linda Williams.
Milton Dowdy, president of the Needmore Community Associat-ion, added that he was "mystified" over the situation. He said the county needs to take another look at the proposal because that particular route would take the homes of a number of Carthage residents.
"I think it's crazy," said Ronald Wallace in what was the briefest comment of all.
Juniper Lake Road residents also made their opposition clear.
Alan Oldham recalled that the Juniper Lake Road project was opposed two years ago and, as a result of complaints by residents, was removed from the highway list.
"Now it's back," Oldham said.
Oldham said Juniper Lake Road residents understand the need to improve the road and recognize the difficult traffic situation. However, he said, many of the older homes were built before setback requirements were established, and if the road is widened, some property owners will be "sitting in the road or losing their homes."
He presented once again the same petition that was presented two years ago when residents of the area succeeded in removing the road from the TIP.
"I don't think the answer is to turn our road into a thoroughfare or a bypass," Oldham said.
Carolyn McKenzie, John Barrett and Bert Kelly also spoke against the Juniper Lake Road project.
Charles Murphy told the board that the prolonged delay in the N.C. 211 widening project has had a negative effect on plans to boost economic development along that route.
David M. "Mike" Wilson said the proposed widening of N.C. 211 has a problem with fire truck accessibility. He said NCDOT should rethink this project and make sure a crossing is available for emergency vehicles along that stretch.
Wilson said he opposes major changes that would result with a proposed western connector.
"I have selfish reasons," Wilson said.
He said that his family has owned the largest stand of virgin longleaf pines in the area for many years, and he doesn't want to see the environment of the area damaged.
Wilson said he has been fighting these changes since 1991, when the concept centered on a 211 bypass of Pinehurst. Now it's called a western connector, he said.
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Com-merce, presented a resolution signed by its Board of Directors supporting the plan. Coughlin said the Chamber is especially interested in four projects on the TIP:
Widening of N.C. 211, the N.C. 24-27 Carthage bypass, the widening of U.S. 15-501 from Carthage to the Pinehurst Traffic Circle and the feasibility study on improvements to N.C. 690 in preparation for the Fort Bragg expansion.
Murphy and Coughlin were the only vigorous supporters of the TIP recommendations as presented to the commissioners.
Two other speakers questioned aspects of the plan.
Earl Ingram, a resident of the Lake Diamond community, said he has observed the feasibility study practice for a number of years and has found that they have a tendency to become reality.
"So feasibility studies make me a little nervous," Ingram said.
Ingram quoted from the county's Land-Use Plan and cited the goal to protect and preserve rural areas, a practice that he thinks is not being followed in the TIP proposal. He said that a survey of the proposed connector from Pinehurst to Aberdeen shows that most traffic is local. Ingram said NCDOT could relieve some traffic congestion by changing signs to reroute motorists onto other roads and by adding turn lanes at busy intersections of existing roads.
Ingram called attention to "the beautiful green area" along Hoffman and Roseland roads and in the Pinehurst and Pinewild areas.
"If you want to cut a new road through there, it will draw developers, and pretty soon there will be more people and more traffic. We don't want to destroy that area," Ingram said.
Elton Turner expressed concern about the widening of U.S. 15-501 from Pinehurst to Carthage, the Pinehurst bypass, and the Carthage bypass. He asked if a study had been carried out to determine how the Carthage bypass might affect local businesses.
At the end of the hearing, Board Chairman Colin McKenzie asked Planning Director Andrea Surratt if she had answers to the speakers' concerns.
"Andrea, I want you to answer all these questions and make everybody happy," McKenzie said with a laugh.
Surratt reminded the gathering that the TIP is just a list of requests submitted to NCDOT and that many of the proposals being questioned do not have funding as yet. She said that the public should not be alarmed into thinking that because the recommendations have been made, they will take place.
Commissioner Larry Caddell, a former mayor of Carthage, recalled the lengthy process of developing the Carthage bypass route. One of the routes, if adopted, would have gone "through the middle of my house," he said.
Finally, Commissioner Tim Lea made a motion to adopt a resolution accepting the TIP but only after removing the three items causing the most concern among the speaker. Commissioner Cindy Morgan made the second.
Items on the county's TIP were developed during two meetings attended by representatives of the county, municipalities, unincorporated communities, such as Seven Lakes, and other interested individuals. The Planning Department administered the meetings, and Melton served as chair.
Among the projects remaining on the list are advancement of the N.C. 24-27 widening through Carthage from west of N.C. 22 to U.S. 15-501, advancement of the Morganton Road-U.S. 1 interchange at Southern Pines, the N.C. 211 widening project, N.C. 690 improvements, the southern connector from N.C. 5 to 15-501 at Aberdeen and feasibility studies for widening U.S. 15-501 between Legacy Lakes and Aberdeen and widening U.S. 15-501 from Pinehurst to Carthage. Bridge improvements also remain, including replacement of the CSX bridge in Aberdeen.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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