At the previous meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners on April 2, Commissioner Bill Lawhon said in his public comments he wanted to hear more about what the state’s Department of Transportation planned to do regarding improving roads in Stanly.
At Monday night’s meeting of the board, a lengthy presentation from two DOT representatives detailed the plans to improve Stanly’s road system.
Brett Canipe, the deputy division engineer for Division 10 which includes Stanly, spoke to the board along with division maintenance engineer Tim Anderson. Division 10 — which also covers Anson, Union, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties — is headquartered at Main Street in Albemarle, and it has a traffic services facility on Coble Avenue.
Canipe said he and others at the local office “are totally open” to taking input from the public regarding suggestions or improvements for road maintenance.
Anderson said the DOT maintains 845 centerline roadway miles, with 126 miles as primary roads and 689 are paved secondary roads. Stanly also has 30 miles of unpaved roads. Counting the number of lane miles, includingmultiple-lane roads, Stanly has 1,698 miles maintained by the DOT.
Stanly also has 111 bridges, 34 large culverts, 28 large pipes and 251 pipes not considered on the bridge inventory but are still “much larger than what maintenance forces operate on so our bridge department takes care of those.”
The DOT maintains 48 traffic signals and 26 flashing indicators along the roads, approximately 8,400 signs and 163 plant beds. The department also mows around 1,700 miles of shoulder and ditches.
In terms of funding, Stanly averaged around $3.15 million in maintenance allocations between the fiscal years of 2015 and 2017. On the bridge funding side, Stanly received an average of $720,000 over the same three fiscal years, which jumped this year to $1.47 million.
The new Road Maintenance Improvement Program is a multi-year plan which funds projects according to the expected life cycle of certain assets, from signs and ditches to litter removal.
“Some of these things we directly affect some of them, where others we are treating the symptom,” Anderson said, referring to litter removal in terms of treating a symptom.
Work locations are determined by the county maintenance engineer and staff and includes “local knowledge of what’s going on, citizens’ request, local leader input and programatic need,” according to Anderson.
The plans for work are completed by field maintenance crews and private contractors, Anderson said, noting “we rely on contractors for work in a lot of counties.”
RMIP plans do not cover hazardous trees, potholes, low shoulders or other unexpected occurrences that come up over time, which funds have to be used for as well.
The funding of the new RMIP number increased with a supplemental amount of $6.3 million to allow the completion of the entire list the division submitted to the state legislature. Anderson called the increase “a pretty dramatic swing.”
Another part of the improvements for roads in Stanly includes a resurfacing and preservation plan, which is part of the DOT’s Highway Maintenance Improvement program.
Anderson said Stanly’s average from the fiscal years of 2016 through the 2019 year average around $2.98 million for resurfacing and $1.62 million for preservation.
In terms of the overall condition of Stanly’s roads, Anderson said each year a third-party company comes in and drives all of the roads in Stanly, looking for cracks and other defects, then a pavement condition rating is determined, on a scale from 0 to 100.
According to the graph in the DOT’s presentation, Division 10’s roads hit a high peak in 2010 at 82.7, but the current numbers sit at 81.7. Anderson said the numbers should “trend back up” with the introduction of the funds from the HMIP plan.
HMIP resurfacing plans are designed, Anderson said, “to ensure we’re paving the right roads at the right times, so we’re not having to catch a road after it’s really far and spend a tremendous amount of money on it.”
In terms of paving in Stanly specifically, the county’s overall rating number increased from an average of 76.4 in 2004 to 85.8 12 years later.
Roads are also rated as good, fair or poor, with any road rated from 0-59 at poor, and fair conditions from 60-79. Good roads are any rated 80 to 100.
Out of the 845 miles in Stanly, about 45 are rated as poor or below, meaning 94.7 percent of the roads rate as fair or better.
The HMIP plan can always have roads added to the list in cases like a new development or a rapidly deteriorating road.
“We have local input in that; it’s not a locked-down program,” Anderson said, adding that more funds may be allocated to county plans if their rating numbers are low in order to get those numbers more equivalent to the state’s level.
Lawhon asked the DOT representatives how much of the state taxes collected on gas purchased in the county go to road maintenance as well as how much does the county get back in road improvements.
Anderson said gas taxes are not collected at the pump, but rather when gas is loaded into a tanker, which “is less easy to thwart the collection process.”
Based on the process, a little more than $2 billion were collected in taxes; taking Stanly’s population, the number locally is roughly about $9 million, according to Anderson.
Lawhon said he appreciated the DOT’s efforts locally, but he related the story of recently attending a home builder’s association meeting in which he and Commissioner Scott Efird were asked when roads like East Main Street in Albemarle would be fixed. He asked how many projects were going on in Stanly.
Anderson said maintenance crews work every day on shoulders, mowing and replacing pipe. Resurfacing has kicked back up because of warmer weather. He added most resurfacing contractors will typically have two or three crews working at the same time.
Looking at the number of projects Division 10 has in 2018-19, Lawhon said other divisions have “a considerable amount more” of projects than the local division.
“I am concerned as a citizen for Stanly and as North Carolina that our roads are not in great shape,” Lawhon said. “I don’t know what it’s going to take to get our roads in better shape. I know (the DOT) is working as hard as it can, but I’d love to know who we need to talk to put the importance of state-maintained roads (into the public). They need to be in real good shape.”
Chairman Joseph Burle-son mentioned the General Assembly used to add a transfer out of the highway trust fund to support the general funds, but the assembly has stopped that. Burleson added he hoped more gas tax dollars headed to the county “are actually coming to us and not being used for other funds.”
Vice Chairman Gene McIntyre asked how many miles of resurfacing was planned for Stanly County this season, which Anderson estimated at 46 miles with resurfacing and preservation.
When asked about the costs for those 46 miles, Anderson said the average cost per mile for resurfacing is $125,000 per mile, with preservation at a slightly lower rate. Combining the two activities, the cost is around $100,000 per mile.
After the presentation, Canipe presented the board with concerns regarding a single-lane bridge on Bethlehem Church Road over Long Creek in the Aquadale community.
All bridges are inspected twice a year, Canipe said, with those inspections generating a list of improvements.
In the case of this bridge, though, made of timber pilings, the weight limit had already been reduced to 1,519 pounds and limited to light traffic.
Canipe said it would cost $300,000 to remove the bridge and build cul-de-sacs on the roads, while improvements on the bridge to keep it going for the next 15-20 years would cost $500,000. A total replacement of the bridge, which sees about 200 cars per day, would cost nearly $3 million.
The DOT would need a resolution of support from the board to remove that bridge from the system, which sits on a dividing line between two emergency response areas. Fire and rescue trucks and school buses do not use the bridge because of its weight limits.
A public hearing process would have to occur to close the road, Canipe said.
The board also:
• listened to a presentation by representatives of the Centralina Council of Governments regarding a study requested by the Board of Commissioners to analyze senior services in Stanly.
• renamed a private drive off Old Cottonville Road in Norwood as Red Road after comments against the name Crawford-Austin Lane were made by residents on the road during a public hearing.
• listened to a presentation from Beth Olivieri and Dee Pankey-Thompson regarding GHA Autism Supports.
• passed a resolution declaring May 3, 2018 as National Day of Prayer.
• approved the reappointment of Johnnie Woodard, Johnnie Harris and Sherry Poplin to three-year terms on the Nursing Home Advisory Committee while appointing Rick Russell to replace Charlanne Tippett for a three-year term.
• approve the consent agenda which included budget amendments for the finance department and SCUSA/Senior Services and approval of vehicle tax refunds for March.