The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 13, 2014

NCDOT to meet with Stanly County, town officials

Public may attend session where Stanly communities learn pathways

By Luanne Williams, for the SNAP

Monday, January 13, 2014 — Plans for a bypass to relieve a future overload of traffic on NC 24-27 are expected to move a step forward Tuesday with a meeting at the Crutchfield Campus of Stanly Community College, but at least one local municipality is looking to revisit an older transportation plan instead.

Set for 6 p.m., the informational event will involve officials from Locust, Stanfield, Red Cross and Stanly County as well as Department of Transportation engineers, regional planners and other stakeholders.

“We are trying to get everyone on the same page as we work through the process for a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the whole county,” said Dana Stoogenke, with the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization.

DOT officials have met with local jurisdictions regarding plans for a bypass since traffic projections began to show portions of the road will be over capacity by 2035. Maps presented at town meetings late last summer showed a variety of northern and southern loop options branching off from 24-27 just west of Liberty Hill Church Road and re-entering near the Cabarrus County line. Further tweaking has narrowed the options to two potential routes that will be on the table Tuesday night.

“We have presented many alternatives to the Stanly County CTP Amendment Steering Committee since May 13, 2013 and in September provided updates to the councils,” DOT engineer Reuben Crummy said.

Although Red Cross and Locust are most affected, Crummy said Stanfield was included so that their preferences, concerns and comments would be considered where any of the alternatives crossed into their jurisdiction. He said the goal, if things work well, would be for one of the alternative routes to be selected at Tuesday’s workshop.

Stoogenke said if things go smoothly and a consensus is reached, the next step will be to take the recommendation back to the full councils at each jurisdiction and set up public workshops.

Stanfield commissioners, who initially opposed any route that would come through the town, discussed the southern loop at their Jan. 2 meeting, penned in suggested route changes to avoid businesses and announced plans to continue their meeting at Tuesday’s workshop.

Red Cross officials, who received the latest proposed routes last week, may take up the issue Monday at their regular monthly meeting before heading to Crutchfield Campus the next day.

Meanwhile, Locust City Council decided Thursday night to send three council members and the mayor to Tuesday’s workshop in a primarily observational capacity since at least half of the council appeared to oppose a bypass plan altogether.

“We did not accept the CTP they offered two years ago and have been working on this ever since,” City Administrator Tim Fesperman said.

He said recent talks with an assistant secretary at the DOT revealed that the earlier plan the city rejected out of fears of 24-27 becoming an expressway with a cloverleaf interchange might actually have been more palatable than a bypass.

Citing “miscommunications” and “disconnects,” between the plans, council members expressed doubts about the viability of a bypass and said they would prefer to discuss a plan that “stabilizes” the current highway and entertains enhancements mentioned in an earlier version of the CTP.

“We don’t want an expressway out here,” Councilman David Walker said.

“Locust is the community and we want to preserve that. But we do have some realities we’ve got to face, too.

“If they enhance 24-27, I think it’s possible to do it, you can increase the volume and keep it safe and keep it pedestrian friendly and still have it come through the center of town, which I think is beneficial.”

Tuesday’s CTP workshop is open to the public.

Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.