Howell Mill Road project is under wayScheduled for completion fall 2016
A longterm road widening project on the heavily traveled Howell Mill Road in Waynesville is now under way and ahead of schedule.
The $11.7 million project will involve widening the two-lane road to add a center turning lane, adding about 22 feet to the width of the road.
The goal of the project is to allow traffic to flow more freely on the road, thus making it safer, said Brian Burch, division construction engineer with NCDOT.
"It's to improve the alignment to provide adequate lane widths and shoulder widths. It will also provide a sidewalk and eliminate the railroad crossing. Essentially, the road will function like a two-lane road, but it will have a center turn lane," Burch said.
There will be 12-foot shoulders on each side of the road and a round-about built in front of the Waynesville Recreation Center at Vance Street. A sidewalk will also be added to provide easier walking access to the recreation center.
Crews with Mountain Creek Contractors of Catawba, who were awarded the contract, have been seen doing pre-work on the road during the past few weeks. The roadway has been marked with different colored flags identifying utility lines and several trees have been cleared off the banks on the right side of the road just past Schulhoefer's Junkyard.
"They have done some clearing behind the propane business because the road along that section will be realigned to the back side of the business," Burch said.
Crews have also installed erosion control items such as a silt fence and basin to catch storm water runoff, he said.
Engineers began right-of-way negotiations and acquisitions in 2011, which took several months.
NCDOT purchased three acres out of the 20 total acres of Schulhofers Junkyard for the project, forcing the business to tear down their main office and two warehouses.
A new office has been built on the far right side of the property. Once the new road is completed, the entrance to the junkyard will be adjacent to the Waynesville Recreation Center and will lead customers directly to the main office building.
But the historic building where the popular seafood restaurant Maggie's Galley could not be spared as part of the building and parking lot stood in the way of the road project. The restaurant has since moved to Sulphur Springs Road and the historic log cabin has been removed and donated to the Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society.
Division Right-of-way agent Teddy Greene said NCDOT also purchased a total of seven homes.
At least two of those homes were purchased and then sold back to the property owner to move before the project began. Tom Moody was one of those property owners who decided to buy back a home that was built in the early 1900s and move it out of the project right-of-way.
The home used to be a boarding house for the workers at a saw mill, which used to be located near Go Grocery, Moody said in an article in The Mountaineer in 2011. Mr. and Mrs. Boston, who owned the saw mill, also owned the house.
Mrs. Boston, Moody said, froze to death in that house sometime in the 1960s, and willed the house to her caretakers. When it was later put on the market in 1989, Moody decided to purchase and renovate it.
The seven bedroom 100-ton home was lifted from its foundation and moved about 30 feet back from the road to make room for the project. Since then, the old house has undergone some major renovations.
Contractors started early on the project, which was scheduled to begin in March, but the completion date is projected to be Oct. 15, 2016.