Citizens study U.S. 158 proposal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

JACKSON – Citizens of Northampton and Halifax counties shuffled though the Northampton County Administration Building here Monday during an informational workshop concerning the proposed four-laning of US 158 from I-95 to Murfreesboro.

With near life-sized maps plastering the walls, North Carolina Department of Transportation representatives took time to answer questions and hear suggestions about the project.

&uot;The purpose of this workshop is to gather your input before final design decisions are made,&uot; said NCDOT Project Development Engineer Beth Smyre who works in the Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch.

&uot;We want to make ourselves available to the residents, business owners and potential users of the proposed roadway so that they have the opportunity to share any concerns they might have and open the lines of communication to allow them to offer suggestions or comments,&uot; said Smyre, emphasizing the importance of speaking with the public so the NCDOT could take those things into consideration.

&uot;One alternative proposes widening NC 46 from I-95 to Garysburg and rerouting US 158 along that route, tying in with existing US 158 east of Garysburg,&uot; said Smyre, stating that multiple bypass alternatives for the towns of Garysburg, Jackson, Faison’s Old Tavern and Conway are also being studied.

According to Smyre, two new bypass alternatives, both north of Jackson, have been added since the last Citizen Informational Workshops were held in April 2002.

The proposed road is anticipated to be a four-lane facility with a grass median and shoulders with a proposed cross-section consisting of 12-foot travel lanes with a 46-foot grass median. Other cross-section alternatives include a five-lane roadway or a four-lane road with a reduced median to reduce impacts to residences and businesses.

With regard to Garysburg, NCDOT listed two bypasses. The northern bypass would begin on the existing NC 46 and continue on new location until it reaches US 158 at the intersection of NC 46 and US 301 as opposed to the southern bypass, which would leave open the option for one of two scenarios, both beginning at NC 46 west of Garysburg.

One would tie in west of Jackson Bypass Road (SR 1311), while the second would tie in east of Jackson Bypass Road (SR 1311). However, a bypass would only be chosen if the alternative to reroute traffic onto NC 46 at I-95 is selected.

A northern and southern bypass of Conway and Faison’s Old Tavern are also being considered, with the northern bypass of Faison’s Old Tavern connecting one of the two Conway alternatives.

As for Jackson, there are three new bypass alternatives being considered: the northern bypass, the extended bypass and the southern bypass with the Old Jackson Bypass alternative, widening the existing Jackson Bypass Road (SR 1311).

&uot;The only thing that has changed is that the bypass for Conway has shifted south and the addition of the alternatives for Jackson,&uot; stated Smyre. &uot;The proposed bypass alternatives for Garysburg and Faison’s are still the same as before.&uot;

According to Smyre, the NCDOT Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which operates on a six-year timetable (currently 2004-2010), estimates a possible right-of-way acquisition one and a half to two years prior to beginning construction.

The total anticipated cost for the purchase of right-of-way and construction, which is tentatively scheduled for 2010, is $111,725,000 with an estimated $18,925,000 dedicated for right-of-way and $92,800,000 for construction, schedule and cost estimates subject to change with further planning studies and completion of designs.

&uot;I think this is an important step in the process in that we should be at the point of resolving the alternates selecting primary alternates for construction and moving to design of the highway,&uot; said Northampton Economic Development Director Gary Brown. &uot;That’s an important step in moving us toward construction and the upgrade of US 158 from a two lane to four lane corridor, which we believe is vitally important to economic growth in Northampton and Hertford counties and points beyond.&uot;

Smyre stated that aside from the potential to positive affect economic growth and development, NCDOT realized the progressive increase in traffic and offered that as one of the reasons for considering this project.

&uot;Figures have shown a definite increase in the flow of traffic and with that increase, come additional accidents. The purpose of this project is to improve the traffic flow and level of service, which in essence will contribute to improved safety and improved access to existing or future industry,&uot; she stated.

As of 2000, daily traffic volumes along the Northampton County section of US 158 ranged from 3,000-10,300 vehicles per day.

Over the next 20 years, traffic volumes are expected to range from 8,500-20,100 vehicles per day.

Neighboring projects include a widening of US 158 from the Murfreesboro Bypass to US 13 west of Winton in Hertford County and the replacement of Bridge No. 77 over Kirby’s Creek on NC 35 in Northampton County.

&uot;A lot of times, we hear people comment that DOT is going to do what they want to anyway, but that’s the reason we are making ourselves available to hear their concerns, take their suggestions and answer questions,&uot; said Smyre, &uot;We want to get their input before hand. Ultimately, they’re our customers.&uot;

The proposed projects will appear before a committee of federal and state agencies that will narrow down the 17 alternatives before a detailed comparison is performed on the selected options through an environmental assessment.

Results of the comparison will then be made available for public review followed by a public hearing.

&uot;It’s going to be a long process, but hopefully people will contact us and let us know what their thoughts are,&uot; said Smyre. &uot;Even if they have no comments, if citizens will provide us with their name and address, we’d be happy to include them on the project mailing list.&uot;

For further information or to submit comments, write:

Dr. Gregory J. Thorpe, Environmental Management Director

ATTN: Beth Smyre, Project Development and Environmental Engineer

Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch

North Carolina Department of Transportation

1548 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27699-1548

Or contact Beth Smyre at: 919-733-7844 ext. 333 or