By Nathan Ham
After the NCDOT released project plans for a Highway 105 “Superstreet” project earlier this week, business owners along the road have started to speak up about what this project might do to their business.
Jeff Collins, owner of Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants, says he never heard anything from the NCDOT before this plan was made public.
“This plan absolutely screws this end of 105, it takes it from a thriving retail area to killing it. It’s going to take half of my business at least,” he said.
Collins said he has talked to several other local businesses and they feel the same way. He also called the NCDOT but has not heard anything back as of yet.
“It needs to look like Highway 321 where you have a center turn lane and at every significant intersection, put a traffic light. Instead of putting dividers, why don’t you put in bike lanes and make it pedestrian-friendly,” said Collins. “I’m losing some of my parking and access for half of my customers.
The current “Superstreet” plan is designed to limit the left hand turns on and off Highway 105. Medians will be constructed where the center turn lane used to be and U-turn “bulb outs” will be constructed for people to turn around in instead of turning left across traffic lanes.
Collins said he was “shocked and outraged” when he first saw the plans that do not allow people to turn left into Peabody’s and several other business along Highway 105.
“I’ve worked my entire career to be able to afford a property at this main intersection on Highway 105 for a retail establishment. With this plan, they’re going to ruin it as a retail spot. I would expect to do half the business that has taken me 40 years to develop by losing that customer base because they can’t get in here,” said Collins. “Highway 105 is not an interstate highway, it doesn’t need to be divided off. It needs to be made accessible. Slow traffic down, put in turn lanes, put in bike lanes, fix the sidewalks that are in shambles and make it a small town, business-friendly street.”
Collins added that he would be willing to give up property for the added space needed for a turn lane or a bike lane, but that the current design plan does nothing to help traffic on Highway 105.
“What they’re doing is going to be incredibly harmful to Highway 105 as a center of commerce, which is what I thought the town of Boone’s intentions were to have in this central business district, it’s a block from the main intersection in Boone. It is a retail place, you’re going to take a bunch of thriving retail businesses and greatly harm them. Retail is having a hard enough time in the world and in Boone, look at all the empty retail space in Boone, said Collins.
Collins also mentioned the possible negative impact that this will have not only on his business that has been in Boone since 1978, but other historical businesses such as Casa Rustica that has been here since 1981 and 1st Tracks Ski that has been on Highway 105 since 1987.
Bill Leonard, owner of 1st Tracks, says safety is always a concern on Highway 105, but is not sure this plan will help with that either.
“We need to make it safer because there’s so much traffic on this road, part of it has a turn lane and part of it doesn’t. If they could put a turn lane in the whole thing, that makes a lot of sense,” said Leonard. “Having it restricted and no turning to the left I don’t know if that really helps.
Leonard said that he felt like rear-end collisions are a big problem on this stretch of road and none of this will really do much to help with that problem.
Much like Collins, Leonard said he also had no contact with the NCDOT about these proposed changes to Highway 105 and just now learned of the project that could start work as early as 2021.
Boone Town Manager John Ward is out of the office this week and was not able to provide comment on this story.
A public meeting will be happening at 4 p.m. on October 9 at the Boone Campus of Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute for concerned citizens and business owners that have questions.
The Highway 105 “Superstreet” plans provided by the NCDOT are below.