DOT lists Northampton projects

Published 10:27 am Thursday, August 24, 2017

JACKSON – Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) spoke at the Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting here Monday night to talk about upcoming projects and answer a few questions.

Project Engineer John Able and Project Manager Barry Hobbs both presented information about four upcoming major road improvement projects that are planned to take place over the next few years.

The first project presented is known as R-5758. That plan will cover the portion of Highway 258 spanning from the Halifax County line to Rich Square.

“It includes milling and resurfacing,” explained Hobbs. “It also includes slope repair and repair of substandard guardrail. It should be complete by October of 2018.”

Hobbs added that the project will also include adding a turn lane at the Chapel Hill Church Road intersection.

The second project Hobbs presented to the commissioners was R-5739. That project entails various improvements along Highway 46 beginning at the intersection of Highway 48 in Gaston up to the Virginia state line. Right of Way is scheduled for 2020, and construction is currently expected to begin in 2022.

“We anticipate that schedule being accelerated, but how much at this point we’re not sure. A lot of it may depend on the Right of Way acquisition process,” Hobbs added.

The NCDOT plans to hold public meetings sometime in the near future on the R-5739 project to give citizens an opportunity to learn more.

The improvements on Highway 46 are expected to include resurfacing the entire route, widening to 12-ft lanes, adding 4-ft paved shoulders and 2-ft earthen shoulders. Some intersections will be cleared of vegetation to improve sight distance for drivers, and aging culverts along the route will be replaced.

Additionally, left turn lanes will be added in a few areas to help the flow of traffic, particularly around the nearby county schools in Gaston.

Hobbs also added that they’re looking into possibly realigning the intersection of 46 and River Road and adding rumble strips “or something of that nature” to make it safer for drivers.

“We had one citizen tell us that traffic coming into 46 sometimes didn’t stop or seem to expect the stop sign, so we’re looking at that situation to try to make that better,” Hobbs explained after Commissioner Fannie Greene asked for clarification on the River Road intersection. “Also, we’re extending the turn lane at that location as well.”

Able presented the other two projects to the Board. Project R-5757 will see major improvements along Highway 305 stretching from the Hertford County line all the way to the southern limits of Seaboard.

“This project is roughly 24 miles,” Able explained, adding that Right of Way acquisition is expected to begin in January of 2020 and construction possibly following in the next year.

The NCDOT will resurface the entire 24-mile stretch of Highway 305 and will replace aging culverts as well as two bridges. They also plan to have 2-ft paved shoulders and a minimum of 2-ft earthen shoulders along the roadway.

“We would like to maintain a 4-ft earth shoulder but what we’re trying to do is minimize our impacts to the citizens along 305,” Able acknowledged.

Specific improvements along Highway 305 include widening the Jackson Bypass intersection to provide left turns in both directions, and widening the stretch between Central Elementary School and the Jackson DOT maintenance yard for a center turn lane.

“There’s so much industry, so much traffic flow through that area that we want to put a center turn lane in there to keep traffic flowing to improve safety,” Able explained.

This same project will also look at realigning a few intersections as well for drivers. They’re looking at making more T-shaped intersections for roads that currently meet Highway 305 at an angle. This should include the Pleasant Grove Road intersection, the Highway 158 intersection east of Jackson, and the Dusty Hill Road intersection.

Able also emphasized the importance of improving the safety at the intersection of Bolton and Griffintown Road, citing several accidents and a recent fatality there.

The final project Able presented was R-2582-A which is a portion of the Highway 158 widening plan first discussed a few years ago. The highway will be widened to four lanes in an 8.1 mile stretch beginning at Interstate 95 and ending at the St. John’s Church Road intersection.

He explained that Right of Way acquisitions should be underway shortly, and construction is expected to begin in December 2019. The rest of the Highway 158 widening project (eastward to the Murfreesboro bypass), however, is not under design yet, according to Able.

The Board of Commissioners had a variety of questions and concerns about the roads in Northampton County, the biggest of which was water drainage issues.

“I really have a concern about Rich Square and their water,” Commissioner Charles Tyner said, referencing the flooding problems near Rich Square First Baptist Church on Highway 305 and also on Main Street, an issue echoed by Commissioner Geneva Faulkner.

Win Bridgers, the maintenance engineer for Division 1, stepped up to the podium to address their concerns. He explained that they were well aware of the drainage problem by the church and had been working with the Town of Rich Square and with the county’s Soil Conservation office on the best way to fix it.

“DOT has committed money to put a new crossline under NC 305,” Bridgers said, but cautioned that the Department of Transportation only has jurisdiction on roadways and not private property.

“We’re not obligated to cure everybody’s drainage because drainage is the responsibility of whoever owns the land in the watershed,” he added.

It is the town of Rich Square’s responsibility, Bridgers explained, to clean out the ditch behind the church and bring it to the road where DOT can put in the new pipe.

“But as of right now, DOT’s hands are tied because there is no active ditch to serve a new pipe yet,” he continued, adding that he hasn’t heard anything back from the town in about two months.

Commissioner Faulkner asked about the flooding problems on Main Street as well to which Bridgers explained once again that drainage is the obligation of the property owner.

“There are canals and drainageways in Rich Square that are not the responsibility of DOT,” he answered. “We will maintain our system, make sure our pipes are going, the boxes are clean, but somebody has got to perform routine maintenance on those canals.”

Commissioner Greene also had a concern about dealing with recent substantial rainfall.

“Regarding the ditches, I’m noticing when we get heavy rains and the ditches overflowing, we have flooding across the road. My question is, are you still cleaning the ditches,” she asked.

Able answered by explaining that the road improvement projects will be designed for a 25 year storm and so water should stay within the ditches. For any other drainage issues, he suggested contacting the county maintenance manager.

Commissioner Chairman Robert Carter also requested the DOT look into putting a “reduction in speed” sign at Zoar Missionary Baptist Church on Deberry’s Mill Road because of the sharp curve there.

“That’s not my department, but I’ll pass it on,” Hobbs answered.

The Board thanked the NCDOT representatives for coming to speak and answer questions.

“Seems like to me that you’re going to spend right much money here in Northampton County,” Chairman Carter said. “We deserve it.”