With a planned spring 2015 start to the U.S. 221S widening project still more than three years away, the N.C. Department of Transportation has already secured funding for much of the Deep Gap to Jefferson project.
All projects of this nature are funded through the transportation improvement program, said NC DOT Division Engineer Michael Pettyjohn. Its a seven year program that is updated every two years. All of the first four sections of the 221 project have some funding attached to them.
Pettyjohn said the project will be a multi-land divided facility project that is broken into five sections, A through D, and will stretch some 16 miles from Deep Gap to N.C. 88 in Jefferson. The widening project is designed to increase the safety of 221S, because of commuter traffic between Jefferson and Boone, and the summer and fall seasonal increase.
Pettyjohn said the new road would utilize much of the existing roadway, a process called best fit. The new road will include lanes at least 12 feet wide, with road shoulders a minimum of four feet wide.
The road will have an estimated cost of $100 million, and construction is scheduled to begin on sections A and B in July 2015.
Those two sections are scheduled to go into right of way acquisition in 2013, said Pettyjohn. Weve got a pretty good right-of-way process laid out. We make contact with property owners and let them know what the plan will be, then we make appraisals and find out what fair market value of the properties are, and start the negotiating process with the owners. Weve estimated that two-year time frame based on the number of parcels involved with the A and B sections.
Pettyjohn said the D section is scheduled to begin in March 2015.
The A, B, and D sections of road will be going on at roughly the same time, said Pettyjohn. Right now, were expecting the D stretch will be a little bit easier.
Pettyjohn said protecting environmental features is a chief concern.
As with any construction project, we want to protect the environmental features, said Pettyjohn. Part of what were doing is identifying streams, and any endangered species. We want to make sure that we capture everything in our investigations that we can. We try to avoid any impact, and minimize it where it cant totally be avoided.
Pettyjohn said DOT is also planning on a new interchange at the intersection of 221/421 in Deep Gap.
Its a safety precaution, with the fog and the amount of traffic the area receives, said Pettyjohn. We feel like that would enhance the safety of that area; Itll be constructed with the A section.
C and E section
Right now, 221 is projected out to 10 years, said Pettyjohn. The middle section, the C section, would be planned in the latter stages of the project. Acquisition would begin around 2017, with construction beginning in 2020. Right now, the E section is not in the planning part, so its beyond our 10 year time frame.