Howell Mill Road upgrade raises questions

By Brittney Champion, Mountaineer intern | Jun 23, 2014
Photo by: Brittney Champion

As construction on the road widening project on Howell Mill Road continues with a bridge construction, some are questioning whether local dollars could have been spent elsewhere.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation began construction on the  road in February. 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 end goal is to provide more adequate lane and shoulder width and allow traffic to flow more safely and freely.

There is also a roadway bridge currently being built that will cross the railroad and Richland Creek.

"The bridge eliminates a railroad crossing, replaces an existing bridge that only crosses Richland Creek, and maintains a continuous grade for the roadway which is an improvement over the current condition," said Jordan-Ashley Baker, a communications officer for NCDOT.

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown said he was surprised when the project was announced several years ago. Though DOT has its own guidelines and priorities when it comes to road projects, he wonders if the money being used on Howell Mill Road could have been more useful somewhere else.

"I may not have made the same choice for expenditure of dollars in Waynesville/Haywood County, but then again, I am not privy to all of the facts and figures at the disposal of DOT," Brown said.

Another area in need of attention in Waynesville is South Main Street.

"Henry Foy and I have both asked DOT to move the South Main Street project up in priority on the TIP list to no avail," Brown said.

The project began ahead of schedule and continues to stay that way. Baker said as long as everything continues to work in their favor, they are hoping to have the major construction finished in October of 2015.

“Right now we are working to finish a year ahead of schedule like we had originally planned,” Baker said.

In the beginning the estimated completion date was October of 2016, but this has changed with the continuing progress.

Once construction has ended, NCDOT will go back and start replacing the grass and other elements that were removed for the project, which could take up to an additional six months to finish, Baker said.

“We cannot promise an exact end date,” Baker said, “But hopefully the summer will continue to be good to us and we can stay on track.”


Comments (3)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 23, 2014 07:31

"Henry Foy and I have both asked DOT to move the South Main Street project up in priority on the TIP list to no avail," -- You know it must be right when private money starts to transform South Main in spite of no government funding assistance.  When/If DOT ever do get onboard, Hazelwood is going to pop with investment.  Now if we can just get the feds to understand their FEMA flood maps are too ambitious by at least a foot or two, investing in Hazelwood will be more attractive.  (We've seen flooding in the last 100 years -- but never anything close to what FEMA maps say.  That means unnecessary increased costs for construction and permitting and mandated flood insurance for federally backed loans.)

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 23, 2014 08:11

FEMA says we should expect the area between Clydes and the Waynesville County Club to be under water when we see the 100-year flood.  We had a 500-year flood in 2004.  Was the Waynesville Country Club under water?  Were all of the homes between Allen's Creek and the golf course under water?  No!  So this inflated FEMA flood map is designed to take money from our community and send it to a national flood program so that we can assist those that get hit with Katrina and Sandy.


Sure, it's appropriate to have some kind of FEMA flood program.  But get the numbers right.  Oh, if you try to take it up with FEMA, they point you to local government.  If you try to take it up with local government, they point you to FEMA.  That's how you KNOW it's messed up.  :-)


Posted by: Gary Arrington | Jun 23, 2014 09:35

A left turn signal was installed months ago at S. Main and Brown Ave., but it has never been activated. It's very difficult to turn left at this intersection due to the increased traffic. Wonder when they will ever flip the switch?

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