Throughout the high school’s cafeteria, various project charts and maps outlining the expanded highway’s proposed course were on display for concerned citizens.
The purpose of the workshop, NCDOT officials stated, was to inform the public of the department’s current plan for the highway expansion and to hear the public’s comments on the best fit alternative for the widening improvements. The best fit alternative is a combination of the east side and west side widening that will minimize the highway’s impact on businesses, residential units and the environment along Hwy 221, Frank Vick of Parsons Consulting explained.
Under the department of transportation’s improvement plan, the section of highway from the intersection of US 421 in Deep Gap to US 221 Business in Jefferson will be expanded to four lanes with a raised grass median. The purpose of the lane expansion, Vick said, is to relieve traffic congestion on the highway and to reduce the number of accidents along certain sections of the highway. Vick explained that some of those accidents on certain stretches of the highway are believed to have caused due to substandard shoulders and the existing curvature of the road.
One section of the proposed expansion will be outfitted with five lanes to allow for a median transition to the existing roadway, Vick said. That stretch of five-lane roadway will run 800 feet north of Long Street to NC 88 in Jefferson. The five-lane section will not have a grass median. Vick also explained that the entire proposed four-lane highway will run parallel to the existing two-lane highway.
Altogether the project will affect 16.1 miles of roadway and will cost approximately $98.8 million. The entire expansion project will be divided into five sections. The first section, A, encompasses the stretch of highway from the intersection of U.S. 421 in Deep Gap to the intersection of Idlewild Road and U.S .221. Surveying for that section will begin sometime in 2012 and the actual construction phase will begin in 2013. Construction on Section B will follow, DOT officials stated. The three other sections of highway under the proposed project will are deemed ‘post year’ meaning that the funding for construction of those sections has not been allocated yet and a schedule for surveying and construction has not been determined.