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NCDOT quells concerns over N.C. 16

July 25, 2011

Emergency responders and business owners came to a meeting with the NCDOT with concerns on Monday, but left feeling a lot better after hearing explanations and potential changes to the N.C. 16 widening project.

State officials came to Catawba County on Monday to try and quell public concern about a controversial plan to widen a portion of N.C. 16 in eastern Catawba County.

NCDOT officials listened to questions and concerns from area emergency responders and business owners alike Monday and explained to them why a four-lane divided highway that relies heavily on U-turns is the best option for the two-lane portion of N.C. 16 that spans from Denver to Claremont Road in Newton.

The NCDOT wants to widen the currently two-lane portion of N.C. 16 to prepare for a projected increase in traffic in the future. The widening will also connect to a soon-to-be-opened section of N.C. 16 that will decrease travel time to Charlotte – making the state highway “an alternative to Interstate 77,” officials said.

But N.C. 16 residents, emergency responders and business owners have voiced concerns with the plans since they were unveiled in May. The main gripes with the plan revolve around its reliance on U-turns, which concerned parties say will eliminate most left turns on the road and make travel less convenient as well as more dangerous. The concerned parties, made up of N.C. 16 property owners, business owners and emergency personnel, mostly wanted a continuation of a five-lane highway.

On Monday, NCDOT officials and concerned parties gathered at Friendship United Methodist Church in Newton to discuss the plan and its future.

NCDOT traffic congestion engineer Jim Dunlop was quick to address the “U-turn” problem that most citizens had gripes with. He said a five-lane highway, an alternative to the NCDOT’s suggested plan, has proven to be dangerous over the years.

“Over time, we have gotten a lot of data that a five-lane section is not the safest – it’s probably one of the most dangerous,” Dunlop said.

“People are coming from everywhere on a five-lane highway, and it’s uncontrolled.”

Dunlop said NCDOT’s suggested plan for N.C. 16 is a “superstreet,” a four-lane highway with a median in the middle that relies on U-turns.

He said the superstreet is safer and more efficient because it reduces possible collision points and eliminates cars coming from multiple directions.

One of the NCDOT’s first superstreets was on N.C. 87 in eastern North Carolina. Three years before the superstreet was installed there were 24 crashes on N.C. 87 with 21 injuries. Three years after the superstreets were installed, there were two crashes with no injuries.
Though NCDOT defended its plan Monday, officials made it clear that changes can still be made. After Bandys Fire Department Chief Jason Drum voiced concern on Monday about how the new highway will affect emergency responders’ ability to respond to calls, NCDOT Division 12 Engineer Mike Holder said their plans are just drafts and may be changed.

Holder also said that the median that will divide the highway is easily mountable by emergency response vehicles responding to a call. Also, the U-turn areas along the superstreet will have extended areas for turning – allowing large vehicles like a fire tanker or transfer truck to make the turn successfully.

Holder continued to say that if there is 80 percent agreement among the NCDOT and concerned parties, then that’s better than nothing at all.

“We are not going to satisfy everyone, and I’m not here to do that,” Holder said. “At the same time, these plans are our first stab at it, and the maps we put in place at the public event are just drafts. It’s a work in progress, and we are just in part one of many.”

Bad for business

Some business owners, such as Christian Tours Owner Udeen Burke, was not happy with the plan even after hearing from NCDOT officials.

Burke’s Christian Tours property lines N.C. 16 and has more than 40 motorcoaches that are 45-foot long that come and go from Burke’s property daily. A Christian Tours employee gave a presentation at Friendship on Monday that estimated about 67,724 vehicles coming in and out of the property annually.

The superstreet’s median would not allow all those vehicles to make left turns out of his property, which would cause a traffic fiasco, Burke said. Regardless of what the NCDOT says, Burke is not convinced the new road will be able to support the traffic – or his 45-foot motorcoaches.

“I don’t care what anyone says, it’s going to have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to convince me that one of my motorcoaches can make that turn,” he said.

Comments

Another thing...

July 26, 2011 by Backbone (not verified), 3 years 4 weeks ago
Comment: 574

..someone please advise Mr. Burke that this is a democracy not a mercantilist oligarchy and we are NOT going to cost the taxpayers any more money or delay on this long suffering project to accomidate his business concerns. If he has a viable, and agile business model, he will adapt to meet the challenges, if not, than well....
Seems the same lesson can be learned by commercial property owners in Newton who allow their commercial properties to deteriorate to such a point they are detractors from growth!

Well Hello Charlotte

July 26, 2011 by LeeHarper (not verified), 3 years 4 weeks ago
Comment: 573

I look forward to the day that I can hop in my Prius and drive to Charlotte and get good Italian food since my favorite restaurant was forced out of business by the Japanesse.

Yeah I may have to dodge jack-knifed firetrucks and buses as well as all of the old folks from Abernathy Laurels going the wrong way on NC16 but I will get my manicotti.

I think the Bandy's Fire Chief needs to ask the fire departments in Lincoln County how they like the new section of NC16. I can't think of hearing about a significant wreck on it, but I don't know for sure.

I know Chief Drum is concerned about his new fire station will be ineffective; no one cared to inform him over the last twenty years that NC16 was going to be widened and he just happened to build the station in the wrong spot. Pssss....Chief, here is a tip. Reduce your fire tax if you have too much income and just want to waste it, give us taxpayers a break.

As for Christian Tours and the massive amount of cars coming and going...look how many christians you can now get up here from Charlotte since they will have a mini-interstate built to your front door and can get there easier now than ever.

I say make it a toll road and use the funds generated to add more flowers to downtown Newton light posts. God knows we need to spend more money on that sort of stuff.

Tired of being held hostage by fear mongering First Responders

July 26, 2011 by Backbone (not verified), 3 years 4 weeks ago
Comment: 571

a. I take issue with the term "First Responders", they seem to show up awful late in the game sometimes, but that is the subject of another time!
b. I have driven on N.C. 87 in the eastern part of the state! It is a great, safe road and it is in just as congested an area as Catawba County!
c. The "New Hwy 16" is Newton's last great hope for an economic resurgence! When it FINALLY is complete, the driv time from Newton to downtown Charlotte is less than 45 minutes! This means we can become a suburb of Charlotte and we will have the opportunity to lure some of the well paid well educated young families up here. (VICE the kind of flotsam we are getting now!) This will be our economic engine. If you want an example, look at Monroe and Morresville, who had transportation corridors opened up to Charlotte and experienced the growth, of which I speak.
d. Now if these are the folks we are going to get, the tax base will increase and housing costs will go up, which will protect the investments of PROPERTY OWNERS IN NEWTON!
E.These potential new residents are well-to-do and look at things through a different lense than we are used to. THEY WILL HAVE A MUCH GREATER EXPECTATION OF SERVICE AND PERFORMANCE FROM ALL ASPECTS OF CITY GOVERNMENT. The Half-measures and inattention to detail that Newton City Govt. operates on now will not work. Also YOU WILL HAVE TO CLEAN UP THE FREAKIN TOWN. YOU WILL HAVE TO DESTROY THE DELAPIDATED STRUCTURES, IMPROVE THE APPEARANCE OF THE EXISTING STRUCTURES. You will have to get a handle on the burgeoning crime problem. The schools, you better fix 'em. Get rid of the incompetents that allow dope smokin and sex to go on just off the school grounds!The other things will come (i.e. nice restaurants and such) as the targeted population grows!
DO NOT LET HWY 16 OPENING BE DELAYED, CAUSE A BUNCH of HANDWRINGING "WANNABES" think there might be a few more wrecks. Guess what, there will be! Its a fact of life, because PEOPLE WILL FREAKIN use the road! OPEN THE DOGGONE ROAD NOW! STOP TALKING AND GET THOSE DOXERS HOPPIN"

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