April 7, 2014
There will almost certainly be cross words and a wringing of hands from those folks in the Fleetwood Community over the next three months as the bridge over the Old Field Creek is replaced on Railroad Grade Road.
It is understandable. Only a select few, those with heavenly-inspired patience, can maintain their good humor and sunny outlook through life’s minor and major inconveniences.
The rest of us mumble “unspeakables” under our breath and slowly count to 10, as we use mental calisthenics to overcome what is really irrational anger.
Fortunately, most of life’s minor inconveniences grow dim in the rear view mirror of our lives as time marches on.
And so it will be with the bridge replacement on Railroad Grade Road this summer.
One must only try and remember some of the predictions of significant disruption that were forecast when the Town of West Jefferson decided to move forward with its plans to redesign its downtown with “streetscapes.”
There were fears of losing valuable downtown parking spaces, businesses seeing fewer customers because of the construction, and the hotly-debated decision to remove the traffic signal at Jefferson Avenue and Main Street.
However, it would be hard to find detractors today about the installation of the streetscapes. West Jefferson’s downtown is not only aesthetically pleasing and customer friendly, but also, we would argue, safer for pedestrians with the four-way stops that replaced the traffic lights.
The same is also true of the major roadway renovation on N.C. 16, largely completed last summer.
Each trip from Sheets Bridge to Glendale Springs was one punctuated with significant delays and dusty conditions.
Similar to the situation in downtown West Jefferson, the memory of the inconveniences encountered by those who travelled N.C. 16 have dimmed and will soon be forgotten.
But the mother lode of inconveniences is just around the corner. We’re talking about the four-laning of U.S. 221 between Jefferson and Deep Gap.
While N.C. Department of Transportation crews and road building contractors will be committed to keeping the traffic moving on 14-mile stretch of highway, you can be sure that during the many years of construction, delays will become a routine part of the daily commute for thousands.
It is in these situations that one must look beyond the present and focus on the future.
On Railroad Grade Road, the future is a safer bridge that will stand for another 50 years. On N.C. 16, the future was a roadway better able to withstand the geological forces that shape the New River that it runs along. In West Jefferson, the future was making the downtown attractive, safe and accessible for locals and visitors.
However, the future of what a four-lane U.S. 221 will mean for Ashe County is still uncertain. We know the road will become safer and we can assume it will cut commute times for many.
What is unclear is how the new four-lane might change the very fabric of our county.
For many, the progress the county might experience as a result of the inconveniences during the U.S. 221 construction will be worth the price. For others, perhaps not.
It could be decades before the final determination is made on whether the price of the U.S. 221 inconveniences will be worth the progress.
We believe it will be.