By Nathan Ham
The creation of the Daniel Boone Parkway appears to be back on the table in Watauga County. The project was added in the most recent NCDOT State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for the 2020-2029 10-year plan.
This is one of 17 highway projects added in Division 11 the covers Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.
“Adding 17 projects to this program shows how much growth our area has, and will continue to experience, and how we will help address transportation needs,” said Mike Pettyjohn, NCDOT Division 11 Engineer. “Every citizen in one of the eight counties in Division 11 will benefit from at least one, and probably several, of the projects we have planned.”
The STIP draft from the NCDOT is updated every two years, so a lot can change with these projects, particularly the ones that are in the later years of this 10-year plan.
The Daniel Boone Parkway would be constructed as a bypass that would connect U.S. Highway 321/421 west of Boone to U.S. Highway 421 east of Boone. The constructed freeway would be built south of Boone. Based on the current draft, right of way acquisitions would begin in 2028 with construction beginning in 2029.
According to the NCDOT, the project would be designed to “relieve congestion on U.S. 421, U.S. 321 and N.C. 105 in Boone and reduce the mixed traffic on King Street, improve linkage to major facilities, improve traffic flow along major facilities and improve safety.”
The initial project cost in this draft would total $271.2 million and right now there is $41.878 million allocated to the project.
The Daniel Boone Parkway was a hot topic of discussion when the plan was first unveiled as part of the Watauga County Comprehensive Traffic Plan in 2013 by the High Country Council of Governments.
To be included in the NCDOT STIP, each project is given a score that will determine when or if a project ever gets off the ground.
“Based on its (Daniel Boone Parkway’s) data score and local support, it scored well enough to be included in the draft STIP. Back in 2008, a Pre-STIP Study was conducted on the potential project and I am sure that the data from that study will be a starting point to begin to develop the project, but at this time we have not stated the planning or design,” said Pettyjohn. “Now that the draft STIP is released, we will start the process of selecting an engineering firm that will begin this process.”