By Jesse Wood
Jan. 8, 2015. Not only has the N.C. 105 widening project been scaled back, the right-of-way acquisitions and the projected construction dates have been delayed, according to local and state transportation officials.
Originally, the widening of N.C. 105 to a four-lane highway was to take place in two sections – from Linville to Foscoe and from Foscoe to Boone. Now, the widening of N.C. 105 is only slated for the section from Foscoe to Boone.
The entire portion from Linville to Boone was estimated to cost just more than $103 million. With only the Foscoe to Boone section in play now, the estimated cost to widen is $40 million, according to David Graham, a transportation planner with High Country Council of Governments, who threw in a disclaimer that these are projected costs and subject to change.
Along most of the project corridor, the two-lane road would be widened to four lanes with a 23-foot grass median and varying shoulder width depending on the steepness of slopes along the edge of the road, according to project details on the NCDOT website. The bridge at Broadstone Road is still slated for replacement, which will cost about $1.4 million, according to Graham.
When the widening of both sections was originally planned several years ago, the justification was based on traffic forecasts that were taken before the economic downturn. Since then, however, NCDOT Project Development Engineer Elmo Vance said that the Federal Highway Administration determined that new traffic numbers are “significantly lower and thus did not require the initially recommended improvements.”
So instead of 14.6 miles from Linville to Boone, only 5.5 miles – from Clark’s Creek Road in Foscoe to the N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone – will be widened. This should be good news for some business and property owners off of the highway in Foscoe that were critical of the widening project and, in particular, the right-of-way acquisition dollars they would recoup. They voiced their concerns during multiple public workshops in 2011.
In August 2012, Vance said that the NCDOT would be “changing the overall scope and size” of the project because of declining traffic volumes. However, Vance declined to be more specific at the time.
This change was included in the NCDOT’s Draft 10-Year State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which schedules projects proposed for full or partial funding in the state from 2016 to 2025. This draft plan was released in December.
The High Country Council of Governments, the local rural planning organization for a number of counties including Ashe, Avery and Watauga, prioritized its final needs list and submitted it to the state for inclusion into the draft 10-year STIP. The High Country Council of Governments ranked the N.C. 105 widening project from Foscoe to Boone second on its list of 30 projects.
Graham with the High Country Council of Governments said that this stretch of highway is among the most congested in the area, specifically at the intersection of Broadstone Road, where “everyone in the region has issues,” particularly during regular commuting times of the day and tourist season.
“The good news is that the project is definitely being seriously looked at by the DOT,” Graham said. “Hopefully, it will get done soon. Unfortunately, road projects take a long time to happen.”
Vance with the NCDOT said that as planned under the STIP, right-of-way acquisition starts in fiscal-year 2018 and construction would begin in fiscal-year 2019.
Vance also added that more workshops would take place in the future. However, he said they weren’t likely to happen this year.