Mayor on Duty

Most of my week has been spent dealing with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.  I will provide updates on projects this week and next week.

Monday morning town manager Josh Ward told me the DOT engineer in charge of repaving Main Street, US 64 and NC 28 called late Friday to let us know the project had been postponed.  The five million dollars for the project was diverted to hurricane disaster relief in the eastern part of the state. Consecutive hurricanes beginning with Mathew caused serious road and bridge problems that DOT continues to address. The repaving funds will be put back in the forthcoming budget so the badly needed resurfacing of these major highways running through Highlands will now start in April of 2020.

I attended the meeting of the Southwestern Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee on Monday night. I am a member of this committee that prioritizes new road projects for this region. The committee is a part of a statewide DOT program known as the State Transportation Improvement Program, aka STIP. Proposed projects are placed on several priority lists and are assigned points from regional committees like the one I’m on and by state DOT officials. A project moves up or down the list for funding based on points received. The total process can take 10 years for a project to move forward to completion.

Appearing on the STIP 5.0 priority list that we reviewed was the NC 106 project, which was presented to the public last summer. DOT recently announced this project would probably never be funded. Nevertheless, it did appear at the bottom of the STIP with a black line drawn right through the middle. It has been lined out and will not appear on the next priority list. It’s dead.

With that said, I still believe some modest improvements should be made to NC 106. One will be the replacement of the bridge below Scaly Mountain that is scheduled to move forward.

Some emergency pull offs like the ones on the Gorge Road could also be done. There are several unpaved spaces that could be paved as pull offs. There are several tight curves and intersections that could be modified to improve truck and school bus operations.

In Highlands I believe a well-designed sidewalk running to Main Street would be an improvement. A sidewalk system for all of our major corridors is needed, especially since there is an increasing number of people walking on the shoulders of these major highways. The limited sight distance on the curve at the Arnold Road intersection could also be improved.

But the improvements I suggest would not occur overnight. They require initiative and community support. They would have to be placed on a priority list and that in itself would take time.

While there are Macon County road improvements still on the STIP Priority List, none are now within the Highlands Plateau. I don’t see any major projects here, at least during my tenure as mayor.

Next week I will provide a briefing of yesterday’s meeting with DOT concerning tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

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