When it comes to government, things can change in a New York minute. Monday morning I received an email from NCDOT announcing that the resurfacing of US 64, including Main Street, and NC 28 had once again been delayed. Originally this five million dollar project was scheduled for this past spring. It was recently postponed to spring of 2020. Now it is once again pushed back to spring of 2021!
My immediate response to NCDOT was that portions of the roads will not hold up that long, and major patching will have to be done in the interim. I copied our legislators my email response to NCDOT.
Here is my assessment. NCDOT is basically broke due to the MAP Act lawsuit settlement. What is the MAP Act?
Thirty years ago the NC Legislature pasted the MAP Act authorizing NCDOT earmark land for future road building. In other words, NCDOT would tell property owners that they intended building a road through a landowner’s property. NCDOT essentially encumbered private property for future use. Many of these seizures never resulted in roads being built, and property owners were denied use and development of their land.
The constitutionality of the MAP Act was challenged by these property owners in court. The NC Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the landowners and directed NCDOT to compensate hundreds of property owners.
NCDOT is now in the process of settling with the property owners, and costs could exceed over 1 billion dollars. That translates into a lot of lost road construction. I suspect the resurfacing project has fallen victim. It might be time for the state to tap into that “rainy day” surplus fund to cover settlement costs. While many may appreciate fiscally conservative practices, crumbling highways and roads is another matter.
Getting contractors to do work in this robust economy is a critical problem. Plans suddenly change. Our contractor for the water tank on Satulah also has the $875,000 contract for the Split Rail waterline replacement. Stillwell and Associates have made fast time on completing the water tank. They were scheduled to go to Murphy to do a contract, and then return September or October to start the Split Rail project.
Their Murphy job was recently delayed, so Stillwell decided to move up the timeline for the Split Rail project since their equipment and personnel were here. A contractor promising they are leaving but will comeback can be problematic. So, this week Stillwell began laying waterline on Split Rail. It will take months to complete, but they are moving forward.
I met with a group from the Split Rail community last Friday to update them as best I could. It is a huge project requiring heavy equipment to cut through rock and dig trenches for 6-inch lines. It will be disruptive, and some folks will be shocked at the earthmoving and loss of vegetation. Once the line is complete and residencies are connected, cleanup and paving of the road will take place.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor