The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local News

June 27, 2012

Stanly, Montgomery residents face uncertainty as highway projects near

Wednesday, June 26, 2012 — As residents of Stanly and Montgomery counties visited the Stanly County Commons Commissioner’s Room to learn more of the proposed projects that will affect NC 24-27 from NC 740 in Albemarle to the proposed Troy Bypass, it was clear that the project has created some concerns.

The combined public hearing was informal and open-house style, meaning no presentation was given, but anyone was welcome to speak to Department of Transportation (DOT) officials one-on-one.

In the commissioner’s room, there were two large maps of the project, one taped to the wall, another placed along tables. Scattered across the room were DOT officials who received a multitude of questions about the project and the effect it could have on homes and businesses.

According to the DOT, the purpose of the proposed project is “to improve traffic flow and the traffic-carry capacity on NC 24-27 between NC 740 in Albemarle to the proposed Troy Bypass, west of Troy,” and “to maintain a bridge across the Pee Dee River that addresses the needs of the highway users.”

Currently Bridge No. 51, which carries traffic over the Pee Dee River, has a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100, meaning its deterioration has gotten to the point that maintenance of the bridge is no longer feasible. Findings from the DOT report there is substantial cracking and deterioration of the underlying structure.

Lisa Feller, the project planning engineer, stood near the enlarged maps to answer questions. She backed the idea that the public’s involvement is critical.

“They’re able to see preliminary designs and inform us about their thoughts,” she said.

“They’re part of the process, the planning and design.”

Although the DOT welcomed comments, some property owners near NC 24-27 still had questions of the severity of impact it may cause.

Michael Laton and his son, Michael Laton Jr., own Custom Doors Control in Albemarle. Laton Jr. lives along NC 24-27 in close proximity to Bridge 51. With an interest in building onto his existing house, he said the project is causing him to wait and monitor how the project progresses.

“That’s the problem I have. How can I do anything?” Laton Jr. asked.

“I’m not going to get anything close to what I paid for and could put into the house.”

Laton’s comments refer to the issue of right of way control. Right of way control is an issue for those that own or work at property close to the highway. With the project calling for the current road’s expansion to a four-lane highway with adequate shoulder space, homes and businesses are likely to be moved.

“I just don’t understand the good of it,” Laton Jr. said.

For Laton and those closely located to Bridge 51, the control and future decisions on the bridge will drastically alter his plans to continue at his current home. A decision on if the bridge is torn down and built again in the same location, or if the bridge is torn down and built to the north or south of Laton, could be the difference in having his pond drained and his house moved. The DOT has alternate maps depicting the proposed road for whatever decision is made on the Bridge 51.

Zachary and Kaye Dennis own property with an existing business near Anderson Grove Baptist Church. The business has been in operation since 1963.

“It certainly looks like it will have to be tore down,” Zachary Dennis said.

“We wouldn’t have much choice, but things could change. It’s not final,” his wife replied.

Eileen Fuchs of the DOT also fielded questions as she stood near maps detailing the proposed road. Fuchs, responsible for the human environment section of the project, prepared the handouts given to all visitors which contributed to information used in this report.

She said that the public’s input will be used as they move forward.

“This is part of the merger process. We’re going to get all the input, summarize and get that to the merger team,” she said.

“We’ll say, ‘This is what the public wants.’ ”

As expected, Fuchs said a majority of the questions she fielded dealt with homes that may need to be acquired.

Those that viewed the maps likely noticed the designs which featured what is called a “superstreet” intersection. The DOT refers to a superstreet as an intersection in which minor cross-street traffic is prohibited from going straight across or left at a divided highway intersection. As NC 24-27 expands to a four-lane highway, the superstreet design prevents drivers from crossing over lanes of traffic, to rest in a median or continue with their turn. The superstreet design forces traffic to turn right and make a U-turn to proceed in the desired direction. The DOT says superstreet designs increase safety by reducing conflict points, improving traffic flow and leaving a smaller footprint than a stoplight interchange.

July 20 is the deadline to submit public comments. Copies of the DOT’s report and maps will remain available at Stanly County Commons, Troy Town Hall and the NCDOT Resident Engineer's Office in Albemarle until the deadline.

 

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