Pleas to Save U.S. 1 Trees Unsuccessful
Despite pleas from concerned residents and the Southern Pines Town Council, it appears that hundreds of crape myrtles along U.S. 1 will be removed to make way for a guardrail project.
"We can't save the crape myrtles and meet state and federal safety standards," said Chuck Dumas, district engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
NCDOT awarded the contract to Barnhill Construction Co. of Tarboro on June 30 after Barnhill submitted a low bid of slightly more than $1 million to install 3.6 miles of guardrail on U.S. 1 from Morganton Road in Southern Pines to Valley View Road by Hyland golf course.
Two other companies bid on the project, but Barnhill's bid was more than $100,000 lower than the next best. Work on the project is scheduled to begin July 25 and be completed by Nov. 30.
"It's the contractor's responsibility to remove the crape myrtles and subsequently dispose of them," Dumas said.
The crape myrtles were planted two decades ago to enhance the U.S. 1 median before the return of major championship golf to Moore County.
Ironically, the Southern Pines Town Council sent NCDOT a letter on June 30 - the day the contract was awarded - expressing its concern over the planned removal of the crape myrtles.
"As you know, this council supports all efforts of the NCDOT to employ appropriate safety mechanisms to keep our roadways safe, but we feel the use of standard metal galvanized guardrail in an area that for two decades has provided the beauty of over 300 crape myrtles welcoming visitors to Southern Pines and surrounding areas is not the answer," said the letter signed by Mayor Mike Haney.
A copy of the letter was sent to state Rep. Jamie Boles and state Sen. Harris Blake.
"I don't want to second-guess the safety reality, but I'd like to try to stop removal of the crape myrtles," Blake said Tuesday. "There must be a better way."
Even though Boles said he would "love to see" the crape myrtles saved, he doesn't believe that it will happen.
"I think the No. 1 issue is safety," Boles said.
He added that Southern Pines residents and businesses may be called upon in the future to maintain that stretch of U.S. 1.
"We're going to have to be creative in these economic times," he said. "We can't keep relying on the state."
Dumas, who has received telephone calls at his office from concerned residents seeking to save the crape myrtles, said last week that there were no plans by NCDOT to do so.
"Not at this time," he said. "We're still moving forward with the project. It's a hazard-elimination project due to the run-off-the-road and median-crossing crashes along that stretch of U.S. 1."
Dumas said there were 29 median-related crashes, including two fatalities in separate accidents, during a five-year study period from Feb. 1, 2004, to Jan. 31, 2009.
"There were several overturned vehicles and several vehicles that crossed the median," he said.
The state explored using Brifen rail, which would have allowed for one line of guardrail that may have been adjusted in the median to save some of the crape myrtles. But the median is too narrow for Brifen so two lines of standard metal galvanized guardrail will be used, Dumas said.
"We looked at several different scenarios, and the median was just too narrow," he said.
The crape myrtles were planted around the time the season-ending PGA Tour Champ-ionship was conducted at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1991 and 1992, and the 1994 U.S. Senior Open was contested on the famed Donald Ross golf course.
Since then, the resort has hosted the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens as well as the 2008 U.S. Amateur. Pine Needles has also hosted the U.S. Women's Open in 1996, 2001 and 2007.
The apparent demise of the crape myrtles comes as NCDOT prepares to implement its 2014 U.S. Open Regional Enhancement Plan. Renovation and rejuvenation of the plantings at the Midland Road and Pennsylvania Avenue interchanges along U.S. 1 will begin later this year.
The 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open will be held in back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst No. 2.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story