By Jesse Wood
The traffic shift for the U.S. 321 widening project in Blowing Rock that was planned to occur on Monday has been postponed because of the colder temps and chance of snow early next week.
“Right now, the weather is kind of a factor for us. The cooler temperatures are playing a little havoc with the pavement markings … We probably won’t get pavement markings that are necessary for the traffic shift done [in time],” said Caprice Cheek, NCDOT Engineering Technician and project hotline operator.
The pending traffic shift consists of closing the two inside lanes and median in both directions so crews could complete the curb and gutter of the median while opening the outside lanes going both northbound and southbound.
The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce described the now-pending shift as “significant” in noting that this change would take some adjustment for locals and visitors. The chamber also encouraged folks to continue to support those businesses in the construction zone.
“This traffic pattern change will be the most significant change that this road widening project has presented, but in the end, we must all remain patient, plan a little extra time in our trips, but most of all, we must not abandon these fine businesses affected,” according to the chamber’s latest newsletter.
Blowing Rock Executive Director Tracy Brown echoed a similar sentiment to High Country Press on Friday morning when talking about the excitement of progress on the widening project.
“I think back to the days when they were four-laning U.S. 421 in Boone and it felt like it would never end, but it did. That’s a beautiful project. It makes it so much easier for folks to get up here,” Brown said. “The same thing is going to happen here. More traffic will be able to get up here and it’s going to be gorgeous once it’s finished.”
Brown added that once this shift takes place, “We’ll really start to see progress.”
This project – particularly with how long it has taken – has been a great concern of the citizens and business owners of Blowing Rock. The portion of the project through Blowing Rock was originally supposed to be complete by April 2014 and the entire project by October 2015
But because of numerous extensions granted to Maymead Inc. by the NCDOT, state transportation officials have said that it would make every attempt to have the portion of the project through Blowing Rock finished by the Fourth of July. The summer of 2017 is the new deadline for the entire project that crosses into Caldwell.
As far as the July 4 goal, the weather, which featured record warmth around the Christmas holiday, has certainly helped expedite the project.
“This is the first winter in four winters that we’ve been here that we’ve been able to work this late into the year,” Cheeks said. “Typically by this time of year, we have been essentially in a waiting pattern since December.”
Latest NCDOT Update on US 321 Project in Blowing Rock
Unfortunately the trending colder weather the later part of this week has resulted in temperatures too cold to install the necessary pavement markings for the next traffic split. The bitter cold temperatures forecast for next week and chances of snow will continue to present a problem for the remaining pavement marking operations and the placement of water filled barrier necessary to complete this shift.
Therefore, the traffic split that had been tentatively scheduled for Monday will now be delayed until further notice. Updates to this schedule will be available as our engineers and contractor continue to evaluate the forecast for next week. Paving that had been scheduled for Saturday & Sunday north of West Cornish has also been cancelled due to forecasted overnight temperatures. Cleanup operations will continue tomorrow, Saturday, February 6th, 2016 along future southbound lanes through the business section. No other traffic impacts to #US321 are currently scheduled for this weekend.***
*** Please keep in mind that the future southbound lanes from the Food Lion Shopping Center to US321 Bus/S. Main Street remain CLOSED to the public at this time. Traffic control along this section has been stepped up in order to begin preparations for the next traffic shift. Motorists and pedestrians attempting to travel along this section of the project will be at an even greater risk of coming into conflict with ground crews working on foot, construction equipment/materials and even construction debris, all of which could result in a serious accident. There have already been several incidences where motorists have struck and then become hung up on the new curb & gutter, resulting in vehicles having to be removed from the area by wrecker. If you must travel back and forth across this section of the project in order to access a residence or business, please use extreme caution and remain alert! Help us keep you and our construction crews safe by observing this closure! ***
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.
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