NCDOT Says Fourth of July Commitment for U.S. 321 Widening Project is On Schedule

Published Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm

A view overlooking the Tanger Outlets and U.S. 321 from near the Food Lion in Blowing Rock. Photos by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

Although much progress has occurred since the local uprising by the Blowing Rock Civic Association (BRCA) last summer, business owners and citizens are still frustrated that the U.S. 321 widening project continues to be under construction more than four years after the N.C. Department of Transportation first contracted out the project.

Now community members are wondering if the wiggle-room commitment that NCDOT Chief Engineer Mike Holder made at a public meeting between NCDOT officials and the BRCA will be upheld.

Last summer, Holder was pressed to make a commitment for the U.S. 321 widening project through Blowing Rock (Area 1 from Norwood to Tanger Outlets) to be finished by Maymead Inc. by the Fourth of July, which is already two years behind the initial schedule.

Holder answered the question but certainly left some wiggle room. Holder initially said that in 15 to 16 months the highway would look “gorgeous” and that minor work like the final striping of asphalt would be finished in the spring of 2017.

That answer wasn’t received well and Blowing Rock citizen Leigh Dunston said to much laughter, “Can you make it 12 or 13 months? You can celebrate the Fourth of July [with us] as a hero.”

Holder then said that completing 95 percent of the project by the Fourth of July could be “very, very close” to being possible.

Speaking with Doug Eller, NCDOT Resident Engineer for Division 11, late last week, the project is on schedule to be “substantially complete” by Independence Day.

Asked what that entailed, Eller said that the final four-lane pattern should be in place with some sidewalk construction and dress-up and shoulder dress-up.

“It’s our intent to be substantially complete,” Eller said. “We continually impress upon [Maymead Inc.] to meet those goals.”

Also speaking late last week, Caprice Cheek, engineering technician with the NCDOT and operator of the U.S. 321 information line, said the project was in a “good position” and that “great strides” were being made to complete the project.

She mentioned that four lanes are paved from U.S. 321 Business South at Main Street to the Tanger Outlets and the majority of curb and gutter and several hundred feet of sidewalk are complete.

Currently, sidewalk construction, curb-and-gutter work, duct-bank operations, grading operations and more are underway. She also mentioned that motorists will likely see activity taking place from Green Park Inn to U.S. 321 Business South at Main Street.

“We have a lot going on,” Cheek said.

For more information about the project, click here or call the project hotline at 828-964-3260.

Here is the latest daily update from Cheek:

*** Be advised that lane closures and traffic shifts are ACTIVE WORK ZONES, NOT SUITABLE FOR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES!!!  Everyday, pedestrians and bicyclists are observed traveling through these areas apparently under the misguided perception that they are out of ‘open’ travel lanes so therefore it is safe.  By being inside of these active work zones you are endangering yourself, other motorists and our construction crews, and at times, even delaying the progress of our work.  Please, observe these work zones!!  If you must be in the project area either on foot or on a bicycle, please help us keep you and everyone else safe – do not walk or bike through theses active work areas!! ***

***Southbound as well as northbound traffic on #US321 has been shifted onto the new alignment from Tanger Outlets to US 321 Bus/S. Main St.  This traffic shift places northbound and southbound traffic in their respective lanes relative to the median.  All traffic exiting businesses along this section of the project will now be required to turn right when entering #US321.  Traffic needing to turn left will be required to first turn right, then travel to the nearest crossover in order to make a U-Turn.   This design feature will help to reduce side impact crashes and a much safer traffic flow through the area.  Drivers are encouraged to initially allow extra time while traveling to and through this area in order to become familiar with this new traffic pattern.***

*** For more details regarding these construction operations or for general project information or if you need assistance in traveling to/through the area, please call 828-964-3260 ***


The retaining wall in the background is in the vicinity of the Food Lion.


This road leads to downtown Blowing Rock. The entrance to Chetola Resort is located just around the bend.


The Subway on U.S. 321 is located out of view on the right side of this image.


A few of the workers pause for a quick photo.


Looking northbound on U.S. 321



Median work continues on the U.S. 321 project.


The Sunset Drive/US 321 intersection


Several hundred feet of sidewalk along US 321 is complete.

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