EDITORIAL: Let's Wait and See on U.S. 1 Project
Underwhelmed so far by the current local paving work on U.S. 1? Us too. But it seems wise to withhold judgment a while longer.
Admittedly, despite the inconvenience caused, the visible results to this point have been less than impressive, perhaps prompting some drivers to recall the words of an old Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is?"
But it's not. Far from it, in fact -- or so we're told.
What makes the otherwise routine project especially noteworthy, and places it in the public spotlight, is the source of its financing: a $3 million tranche of federal stimulus money dispensed under the Obama administration's efforts to revive the nation's slumped economy. Thus it's only natural that there would be a certain amount of cynicism about apparent squandering of tax money on make-work boondoggles.
The progress that has met the eye has seemed at times almost laughably insignificant: For mile after mile, the soil on the shoulder has been pushed aside just a bit to make way for a strip of new asphalt that, to the naked eye of anyone zooming by, looks no more than a foot or two wide in places. And it's not even that smooth, often appearing uneven and hastily applied.
But hold on. According to the N.C. Department of Transportation, those are just the preliminaries -- a bit of foundation-laying. By the Nov. 20 target date, local motorists should confront 8.1 miles of widened and resurfaced asphalt stretching smoothly from Morganton Road in mid-Southern Pines to Aiken Road near Vass. The actual paving is scheduled to begin as early as next week.
Recession or no, the work has long been sorely needed. That piece of roadway, reaching from here to the new bypass, is rough and too narrow. Resembling a deteriorating early-day stretch of interstate highway, it has always lacked paved shoulders. It squeezes cars and trucks uncomfortably close together, providing a none-too-awesome entryway to our fair city. But no more.
"When it's complete," says Ron Van Cleef, assistant resident engineer with NCDOT, "the road will have four 14-foot lanes and will make the whole area a lot safer."
Besides being broader and smoother, the refurbished length of thoroughfare -- which handles about 20,000 vehicles a day -- will also feature an extension of turn lanes for more efficient handling of increased traffic at the new STARS Charter School in the community of Skyline. Handling the work is contractor S.T. Wooten.
A total of $8 million has been allocated to Moore County as part of $466 million in stimulus money going to 70 highway and bridge projects across North Carolina. Of Moore's share, another allocation of $2.8 million is going to widen and strengthen 9.4 miles of N.C. 24-27 from Robbins to the Montgomery County line -- another overdue improvement.
We're not sure how much all this helps the economy, but it's sure going to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to get from here to there on southern Moore County's main traffic artery.
That's pretty stimulating.
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