Flood project troubles motorists
CLYDE — A flood control project east of Clyde is expected to wrap up soon, but not soon enough for residents along Thickety Road.
A section of the road has been rerouted and town property near the Pigeon River is being excavated to serve as an overflow area during times of flooding.
The project meant hundreds of loads of dirt were hauled away, and the heavy truck traffic has resulted in a road that has crumbled and is filled with potholes. That, along with steady truck traffic, has made travel on portions of Thickety Road just plain dangerous, residents say.
The project, said Mike Waresak, a senior engineer with McGill & Associates, is being paid for with a state grant received several years ago to help divert flood water before it hits the more heavily populated areas in Clyde.
Back-to-back floods in 2004 left much of the low-lying areas of the town under water. Several years after the flood, an old bridge that trapped large debris flowing down the Pigeon was removed to help address future flooding issues.
“We’re basically giving somewhere for floodwaters to go as opposed to flooding properties and the road,” Waresak said of the most recent work dubbed the off-channel flood storage project. “We certainly hope it will be good for Clyde. It can't hurt.”
This project will have an added benefit to the area, said Andy Southards, president of Site Development Corporation of Shelby, which landed the contract for $949,335. That's because it includes two playgrounds, four picnic shelters, a horseshoe pit and a paved parking lot. Work began in April and is expected to wrap up by mid-July.
Clyde Mayor Jerry Walker is optimistic about the project.
"All we had to do was get the land and get it in our name," said Walker, "and they even gave us the money to do that with. I certainly hope it will be good for Clyde. If it can keep water from going down Broad Street, it will be a great help."
Between the area specifically created to divert flood water, and the more freely flowing Pigeon River, Walker is hopeful Clyde residents won't have to endure the hardships many went through nearly a decade ago.
The project construction has angered a number of residents who regularly travel the narrow, winding road between Clyde and Canton. The route has become a dangerous place in the past six weeks, area residents say, not just because of the increased heavy truck traffic, but because of the damage that's been done to the road.
"The road is highly dangerous," said Shawnda Hannah, who lives off Thickety Road. "It's a danger for everyone in that community."
Because of the large potholes that often extend a foot or more into the driving lane, Hannah said she's forced to almost come to a stop to drive over the pothole without damaging her vehicle, or pull into the oncoming traffic lane and hope nobody is coming. The road is filled with plenty of blind curves, which adds to the problem. She is particularly wary because of a 2010 head-on collision where a young driver lost control of his vehicle, veered left of center and hit her vehicle.
David Jones, who lives on Sorrells Cove off Thickety, said it is not only the loaded dump trucks that are damaging the roadbed, but the way drivers straddle the center line on the hairpin turns that is a concern.
"I don't know how many different contractors are hauling dirt, but every one drives differently, he said. "It's just a matter of time before somebody gets hit."
Both Jones and Sorrells say they have made numerous calls to have the situation corrected, but both feel as if they are hitting brick walls. They also say it is unfair for taxpayers to have to foot the bill for road damage that all concede has been caused by those working on the project.
1st Sgt. John Fairchild with the N.C. Highway Patrol said there have been a number of calls about the traffic on Thickety — calls that have been followed up on.
Officers have been periodically sent out to not only patrol the area, but to check for overloaded trucks and ensure the proper permits had been maintained.
Secondary roads aren't built to the same standards as ones designed to sustain higher traffic levels, Fairchild said, but state law allows those transporting heavy loads on them to exceed the weight limit by 10 percent except on roads designated as "low tonnage," which Thickety is not.
Weight not an issue
Southards with Site Development Corporation, said the soil being removed from the flood project area is a light, sandy consistency.
"In reality, it would be hard to overload a truck with that," he said.
He said between 60,000 and 70,000 cubic yards of material is being hauled from the project area to private property several miles away. Jason McClure of Hydro Pro Services, who has property just a few miles from the project area, agreed to take the soil being excavated. He, along with several others hauling the material away, is being paid standard hauling rates for his services, Southards said.
"They aren't paying us for dirt, and we aren’t paying them to take it," Southards said of the Hydro Pro arrangement.
McClure was out of town, but Hydro Pro employees Brian Pyle and Brian Franklin, who have worked on the project since it began, said daily safety meetings have been held with the haulers and the trucks have only been loaded with 8 to 10 tons of material, even though legally more could be hauled.
Southards said he understands projects of any size create an inconvenience for neighbors, but he predicted the community will be pleased with the end result, especially the playground and picnic area.
"People will have a real nice park," he said. "Everything is being built with the idea it will be flooded. The grade is being lowered so the river can get out of its banks here."
Once the hauling is complete, the N.C. Department of Transportation can make road repairs.
Jonathan Woodard, the N.C. Department of Transportation District 2 engineer for Haywood Jackson and Swain counties, said the project has definitely damaged the road.
While some patch work has been done, he said the hauling needs to be finished before any of the needed major repairs can be tackled. The repair project, which will be developed and perhaps scheduled for later in the summer, will include digging out the areas where the pavement has been badly broken and then resurfacing the road.
The department will continue to patch the trouble spots until the major repair work can be completed, he said.
The fix can't happen soon enough for those who regularly travel the road.
"It's just a matter of time before somebody gets hit," said Jones.
Both Jones and Hannah contend the contractor or the town ought to be responsible for the road repairs, not the taxpayers, but road maintenance is a state responsibility.
"There are no weight restrictions on the road, the trucks are properly tagged and we are complying with our contract," Southards said. "Outside of that, it's a NCDOT-maintained roadway. All those taxes we pay in weighted tags and highway use tax goes into a pool to pay for improvements. Hopefully repairs will be made sooner than later. ...Obviously we don’t want to be an inconvenience to the community, but construction projects just have a way of being inconvenient for a time. Once the project is done, we think people will be really happy with it."