The Ashe County Planning Board was updated on the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) Rural Planning Organization’s (RPO) list of the road needs the High Country.
Of the top six needs, three were in Ashe County, including the highest need for funding, section C of the U.S. 221 expansion from the South Fork New River to N.C. 194.
“These are the projects that were submitted by all of these jurisdictions and you can see how they played out,” said Adam Stumb, planning director for the County of Ashe. “From Ashe, the U.S. 221 section C project got kicked into this, but it did rank as the highest in our region.”
The High Country Region consists of Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties. The town of Boone was allowed one project request.
The other projects ranked high in Ashe County were section E of U.S. 221 from N.C. 163 to N.C. 88 (No. 5) and acquisition of land and hangars adjoining the Ashe County Airport (No. 6).
Other projects ranked high included work on N.C. 105 from Clarks Creek Road to the N.C. 105 bypass in Watauga County (No. 2), U.S. 421 from U.S. 421 business to N.C. 16 in Wilkes County (No. 3) and U.S. 321/421 from the intersection in Watauga County to the N.C. 105 bypass (No. 4).
“This is good news for U.S. 221 and Ashe County,” Stumb said. “This determines the money and how these projects will get funded. More importantly, when they will be funded.”
Vice chairman Darrel Hamilton asked how the RPO is affiliated with the state.
“The state says you have to have these (RPOs) to help divvy out the highway money,” Stumb said.
Hamilton then asked how much weight the RPO’s rankings had with the state, to which Stumb said there was a lot.
“There’s state projects,regional projects and divisional projects,” he said. “The state wanted these regional RPOs to rank them amongst themselves.”
Other projects involving Ashe County that were added to the priority needs list were N.C. 16 in Wilkes County from U.S. 421 to to the Ashe County line (No. 13), an installation of a waterline to supply the Ashe County Airport (No. 28) and a construction of taxiway to the midfield of the runway at the Ashe County Airport (No. 29).
Of the 30 ranked projects, Wilkes provided the most with seven. Ashe provided five, Watauga provided four, Alleghany, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties provided three and the town of Boone provided one.
According to the High Country Council of Governments, “the RPO is governed by the 16 member Rural Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC).”
The STIP rankings are available, as well as the opportunity to comment on the priority needs list, online at www.regiond.org/TRANSPORT.html/. The RPO will receive public comments through July 31.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.