Mayor on Duty

Town and county staff and officials recently received a NCDOT briefing on the proposed NC 106 improvements. This project is in in very basic planning stage. Funding, which I believe is a long shot, would be down the road.

At that briefing I encouraged DOT officials to not delay in sharing these preliminary plans with the public. I know the public wants information after seeing the survey crews on 106 this summer. The meeting is today from 4 to 7 at the Highlands Conference Center next to the ball field. It is a drop in session where DOT staff will be there with plans. They will answer questions and discuss any parts of the plan.  The DOT folks will also explain the next phases including how the public can submit feedback about the project.

I have seen the plans. There are some features I believe would be beneficial, and others I believe not necessary. For instance widening the road and shoulders would impact the aesthetics of this important corridor. On the other had, improving some curves and sight distances would be beneficial, especially for large trucks.

Now I know some people may contend we do not want more truck traffic, but that will become a reality whether we like it or not. Everything we consume on this plateau arrives via trucks.  I am working with officials to stop large trucks from using the dangerous Gorge Road.  Trucks will have to take alternative routes like NC 106.

I also like the proposed sidewalks within the town limits, provided they can be done without taking large chunks of property.  I am for sidewalks being built and extended on all the major corridors into town.  Improving walkability enhances neighborhoods and the overall community. I want to encourage DOT to work with us in the future in building more sidewalks. There are a lot of folks now walking on the shoulders of the highways, and sidewalks would be a safety improvement.

The old-narrow bridge below Scaly Mountain is not a part of this project. It is scheduled to be replaced in 2020.  The proposed project does include the improvement of certain intersections and slight realignment of some roads entering 106.

I am on the Southwestern Regional Commission Transportation Advisory Committee. This committee makes recommendations to DOT on regional road priorities.  Let me share with you where I think the funding and construction stands at this point.

At an estimated price tag of 97 million dollars, I don’t see this project being fully funded. As I said, it is a long shot. This committee prioritizes projects in a long, tedious process.  At our last meeting the NC 106 project had such a low priority that some of my colleagues doubt it will ever be funded.  Some parts of it may survive, but don’t expect a full blown project getting underway in the next couple of years. DOT works slow, if full funding was to somehow become a reality, their schedule would call for construction to begin in 2027.

I welcome feedback and will keep everyone updated.

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