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Road work ahead

JACKSON – Representatives from the state’s Department of Transportation were on hand at last Monday’s meeting of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners to provide an update on road projects within the county.

Division One Engineer Jerry Jennings presented much of the information to the commissioners, starting with projects that are currently in progress or are slated to begin in the next few months. Those projects include repaving and “modernizing” Highway 258 from Rich Square to the Halifax County line, replacing a bridge on Galatia Road, making pavement improvements on Interstate 95, and paving two currently unpaved roads.

Both the Highway 258 project and the Galatia Road bridge replacement project, Jennings said, are expected to be completed by Fall 2018. The improvements to the interstate, which cover an eight mile span from the Virginia border to mile post 172, are slated to finish by March 2019.

Two maintenance projects in Woodland and Rich Square are in the works as well.

“There’s a new program that the General Assembly enacted this past year called ‘high impact low cost’ program,” Jennings explained. “It’s an opportunity to deal with things that are bigger than a typical maintenance concern… but not to the scale that it would compete with other large capital projects. It’s a one-time program for two years, but we’re hoping it will continue.”

The first of those two programs would be curb and gutter repair in Woodland. The project would cost the NCDOT about $100,000 to complete. The second project, at about double the cost, will involve both stormwater improvements and curb and gutter repair in Rich Square.

Division Maintenance Engineer Win Bridgers answered a question from Commissioner Geneva Faulkner about the water drainage issue that has plagued the intersection of Highway 258 and Highway 305 in Rich Square for years. Bridgers explained they would install a storm drain pipe to fix that particular issue.

When asked by Commissioner Charles Tyner about the ongoing flooding issue on the roadway near Rich Square First Baptist Church, Bridgers answered that the DOT is committed to putting a pipe in to fix the issue but they were still waiting for the nearby private property owners to add a ditch that would drain the water away. Until then, he said, the DOT’s hands were tied.

Commissioner Fannie Greene asked Jennings if the DOT was able to add new curbs and gutters in other towns throughout the county, such as Garysburg.

Jennings answered that the current project was only for existing curb and gutters, but they would try to include other towns during their next update.

Several upcoming projects Jennings presented to the Board are still in the planning stages. The biggest of which is the plan to widen Highway 158 from the interstate to the intersection of St. John’s Church Road east of Garysburg.

“It’s a $65 million project to multi-lane this segment of 158,” Jennings explained. “That certainly will be a significant project for the area. It’s about eight miles in length.”

Currently DOT is meeting with citizens during the Right of Way acquisition stage of the project, and the construction is expected to begin in April 2019.

“The other segments are currently unfunded,” Jennings said of the plan to continue widening the highway through the rest of the county. “But the environmental documents are done, much of the design is done, so we’re hopeful that with the next update of our 10-year plan, another section can get incorporated.”

Greene asked if meetings with citizens affected by the widening project were going well. Jennings answered they’re listening to reassure any citizens who may have concerns.

Faulkner followed up by asking if any citizen would be completely displaced by the project, to which Jennings replied that there were unfortunately a few.

Future highway improvement projects also include repaving Highway 46 from the Virginia state line to Gaston, and Highway 305 from Seaboard to the Hertford County line.

The Highway 46 project, with an estimated cost of $10.5 million, is scheduled to start construction in 2022. A public workshop was held at the Lake Gaston Community Center on February 20 to receive feedback on the upcoming work.

The Highway 305 project will also hold a public workshop from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 8 at the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson. The project is scheduled for construction beginning in 2021 and has an estimated $8.9 million cost for the NCDOT.

“There are a number of projects in Northampton County that are not currently in the 10-year plan, but are subject to be reprioritized with the next update,” Jennings explained but did not go into much detail about what those projects were.

Jennings concluded his presentation by discussing the five-year highway maintenance program, which includes pavement preservation and resurfacing, and the road maintenance program which handles upkeep on drainage ditches, shoulders, and pavement markings.

“In Northampton County alone, within that five-year plan, there’s $2.6 million planned for pavement preservation. And just over $20 million planned for resurfacing,” he reported, explaining that covers 116 miles of preservation work and 163 miles of resurfacing.

About $2 million is committed to proactive planned road maintenance as well, he added.

Commissioner Greene asked if there was an update for Jasper Jones Road. The Board had previously passed a resolution in January requesting the private unpaved road be added to the DOT’s secondary road system for maintenance. The road is located in a subdivision just west of Gaston.

DOT Engineer Scott Emory was on hand to answer her question, explaining that they were not able to take over maintenance of the road because it did not meet DOT requirements.

Jennings further clarified by saying, “the challenge that we have is legislation says we cannot add a road to the system that was not in existence prior to 1975 unless it is paved to our current subdivision standards.”

Their research indicated the current road was added in the 1980’s, and aerial photos from the 1970’s showed a previous dirt road nearby but not close enough to the same location to meet the DOT’s requirements.

Chairman Robert Carter thanked all the DOT representatives for keeping the Board informed of all projects within the county.