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DOT decides on US 158 widening plan

RALEIGH – A recommendation has been made by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on the proposed widening of US 158 from the Murfreesboro Bypass to US 13 in Winton.

According to meeting minutes released from NCDOT, the department staff has recommended Alternative C with the Mapleton Service Road Option for the project.

Alternative C would widen the roadway, remove the existing Potecasi Creek bridge and replace it with two new bridges to the south and straighten the curve in front of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church by adding a section of road south of the church.

The Mapleton Service Road Option moves the proposed roadway away from Mapleton, reducing the impact on the community and the number of driveways having direct access to US 158.

This alternative would also lessen the impact on Mt. Tabor Church and affect 19 residences with the Mapleton Service Road Option.

Without the Mapleton Service Option the alternative would potentially affect 34 residences and one archeological site. No historical sites and cemeteries would be impacted.

This decision sides with the majority of the citizens’ comments heard during a public hearing meeting held in July at Roanoke Chowan Community College and also written comments that were submitted. An Open House where citizens could look at the three alternatives and the service road was also held before the public hearing.

“A majority of the comments that were in support of Alternative C expressed concerns about the impacts Alternatives A and B would have on Mt, Tabor Baptist Church and the surrounding community,” the minutes state.

Among the 41 written comments received about the proposed project were statements from members of Mt. Tabor Church and a letter to State Senator Marc Basnight (D-1st) from the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

While most comments were for Alternative C, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners indicated in their letter to Senator Basnight their endorsement of the Mapleton Service Road Option as well. This was the only support shown for the service road, though it was noted by NCDOT that there were several comments made during the Open House regarding that particular option.

No comments were made in support of the two other alternatives (A and B).

Alternative A of the proposed project would expand the roadway, following the current shape of the road. Two new bridges over Potecasi Creek would be installed as well.

As far as impacts to communities, the alternative would potentially require 37 residential relocations, one historic property, one archaeological site and one cemetery.

The Mapleton Option with this alternative would reduce the number of relocations to 22.

Alternative B would widen the existing road and install two bridges over Potecasi Creek. In addition, a section of the road to the north would straighten the sharp curve in front of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church and reduce the impact on the church.

However, this alternative would potentially involve 38 residential relocations and one archeological site, but no historic properties or cemeteries.

With this alternative along with the Mapleton Option, 23 residences would be affected.

The minutes state the staff’s second choice (following Alternative C) would be Alternative B and then Alternative A as third choice.

Additional items and citizen concerns that require action were also discussed, including:

* Roadway Design Unit working to minimize and possibly eliminate the need for additional right of way taking of properties that were impacted by the Murfreesboro Bypass project in 1993. The unit will also investigate to see if any impacts can be minimized to properties where landowners have voiced specific concerns. This review will take place during the right of way plan preparation.

* The Hydraulics Unit will look into the flooding issue in the vicinities of Potecasi Creek and at a culvert near U.S. 158 Business. This process will take place during the drainage design process.

* The Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch (PDEA) have recalculated the wetlands impacts.

* The Roadway Design Unit has surveyed Alternative C at Potecasi Creek.

The purpose of the proposed widening is to provide road connectivity between northeast North Carolina and Interstate 95 to support economic development, ensure future safety along the project limits and provide linkage for US 158 as a part of the North Carolina Strategic Corridor System and as a major hurricane evacuation route.

The right of way acquisition is currently scheduled to begin in June 2010 with construction on the agenda for June 2012.

The project with Alternative C would cost $37 million with combined construction of the roadway and right-of-way costs. NCDOT is funding the project with state funds, which places the US Army Corps of Engineers as the lead federal agency.

The proposed widening of US 158 is part of the Transportation Improvement Project (TIP).