The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

September 14, 2013

Red Cross, NCDOT look at proposed NC 24-27 bypass for area

By Luanne Williams, for the SNAP

Saturday, September 14, 2013 — Red Cross Town Council members got an early look at a draft highway map Monday night that North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is using to help create an amended Stanly County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) that would include a bypass to alleviate traffic along NC 24-27, portions of which are nearing capacity.

“When we do an analysis for a roadway, we don’t wait until the traffic and congestion gets there. We try to take care of it before it happens so that we can make sure the travel flow is where it should be,” Reuben Crummy, an engineer with the NCDOT’s Planning Branch, said as he pointed out a segment of the highway between Coley Store and Brown’s Hill roads in Locust printed in red to show that it is projected to be above capacity by 2035.

“That lets us know that something needs to be done about that before we get there,” he said.

The draft plan of potential routes for a 24-27 bypass shows northern and southern loop options, both appearing to branch off the highway just west of Liberty Hill Church Road and re-enter it near the Cabarrus County line.

The southern route looks to follow along Lakewood Road and then veer west, crossing N.C. 205 and Hilltop Road north of Peach Tree Lane and continuing west across Barbee Road north of Farm Pond Lane, across Elm Street and N.C. 200, where it would dip south, cross Renee Ford Road, Brown’s Hill Road and rejoin 24-27 at the county line.

The northern route appears that it would cross Gaddis, Ridgecrest and Jacob roads roughly midway between 24-27 and Austin Road and continue west near a segment of Smith Grove Road, crossing Running Creek, Bethel Church and Pond roads.

The potential northern route then splits into two options, both of which cross Coley Store Road, and N.C. 200, one above the other, but both south of the Bethel Church/Meadow Creek Church Road intersection.

One option would have the bypass join Meadow Creek Church Road north of Creekview Street and follow it as it curves south, branching off to the west near Oakgrove Street and rejoining 24-27.

Another option would put the northern loop’s last portion further west, bringing it out at Brown’s Hill Road.

Crummy made it clear that the map was simply a draft showing suggested alternatives and that there are many more steps before a specific route would be chosen and a plan offered for inclusion in the state’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

“When you see the CTP maps, don’t be alarmed,” he told the town council.

He said the CTP process began with several stakeholders’ meetings in the spring of this year, followed by a survey and data collection, which led to the draft plan. The next step will be another Steering Committee meeting Sept. 30 to go over the draft, this one including not only Red Cross and Locust, but also Stanfield officials since the southern route passes near its border.

“We will be looking for the best recommendation for the whole area, not just Red Cross, not just Locust, not just Stanfield, but the whole area,” Crummy said, adding that once the draft plan is agreed upon, a series of public workshops will be conducted.

Then, after questions and concerns are addressed, the DOT would request adoption from jurisdictions, seek an endorsement from the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization, and ask for a thumbs-up from the Board of Transportation. Only then would the plan be eligible for the TIP.

Although Crummy did not say which draft route he felt would be most workable, he did say data shows the southern route would likely alleviate more traffic, with an estimated 10,000 ADT (average daily traffic) users as opposed to an ADT of 7,000 on the northern alternative.

He said any project would undergo a rigorous environmental process before final alignments or designs were determined and that the CTP would include not only a highway map, but a bicycle map, a rail and public transportation map and a pedestrian map.

Interestingly enough, according to the DOT’s survey results, these additional maps may draw as much interest from Red Cross residents as the highway draft. In fact, increasing walking and biking options, preserving the rural character of their community and improving intersection designs were among the top priorities of respondents to the survey given to residents in Locust, Red Cross and nearby unincorporated areas.

Crummy said most of the 220 responses came from Red Cross and also mentioned interest in better traffic signals, adding turn lanes and creating roundabouts.

Low on respondents’ priority lists were faster automobile travel time and controlling the frequency and location of driveways and cross streets.

Crummy said he had talked with Red Cross officials before Monday’s meeting about the need to add bike routes and pedestrian options and that those proposals could possibly be penciled in prior to the Sept. 30 meeting.

In other business Monday night, the Town Council voted unanimously to approve a request from the West Stanly High School athletic department for the cross country team to use the perimeter of the town hall property for a practice track, contingent on having a legal agreement signed that would protect the town from any unwarranted liability.

Town Administrator Aloma Whitley had spoken with the town’s insurance agency, the School of Government and the town’s legal counsel to clarify what might be done to limit risks.

Councilman Jerry Jordan suggested that language in the contract clarify that it would be the duty of the school to regularly inspect the track and notify the town of any problems.

He also said the town should document the fact that it informed its insurance company of the plan to allow student use of the land, a 28-acre area adjacent to the town hall with a perimeter of some 1.3 to 1.5 miles.

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