DOT long-range plan includes widening Hwy. 108

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Smith, with the DOT says the plan looks at traffic projections for the year 2030 and those projections could change over time, depending how the population grows.

She says since the projects in the plan are not funded, it will take initiative from county and municipal officials to get needed projects on the state&squo;s list when the time is needed.

&dquo;It&squo;s a vision plan and there&squo;s no funding attached to this plan,&dquo; Smith says. &dquo;It&squo;s really up to the county and municipalities to seek funding when these projects will be needed.&dquo;

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Local resident John Vining, like others attending public meetings on the plan says he likes our rural roads and does not want Hwy. 108 to be four lanes.

He points to Long Shoals Road in Buncombe County which used to be a rural road and is now a four-lane highway with 13,000 cars per day travelling on it. Long Shoals Road also averages 3.3 accidents per month.

&dquo;I predict that widening the road will result in more speedng and ultimately more wrecks,&dquo; says Vining.

Vining says it makes no sense to widen Hwy. 108 because the state&squo;s plan does not include widening the I-26 bridge or the Lynn Bridge over the Pacolet River.

Vining says there is reference to a project designated as I-4729, but that project is unfunded in the 2007-2013 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which is the replacement of the I-26/Hwy. 108 bridge with a new structure and configuration.

The state&squo;s recommendation for Hwy. 108 says that the current capacity of the road is 8,000 to 12,000 vehicles per day and the 2003 average annual daily traffic ranges from 8,500 vehicles per day just north of Tryon to 11,000 vehicles per day inside Columbus to 13,000 vehicles per day on sections between Tryon and Columbus.

&dquo;The existence of many driveways accessing NC 108 at various points is a factor that contributees to reducing the roadway capacity,&dquo; states the recommendation.&bsp; &dquo;Population growth and residential development in the county is expected to increase 2030 traffic volunes along NC 108 to 12,000-16,000 vehicles per day. Without any improvements, the level of service by the year 2030 will deteriorate as traffic is expected to grow.&dquo;

The ultimate recommendation, the state says, is to upgrade the section from U.S 74 to U.S. 176 to a four lane divided section. In the interim, several options exists, including adding turn lanes, adding a center lane, access management, widening shoulders and signal timing improvements.

Also in the state&squo;s recommendations is a plan to ultimately upgrade Hwy. 108 to the South Carolina state line to a four lane divided section with interim improvements, including adding turn lanes, adding a center turn lane, removing parking, studying a one-way pair option, access management, widening shoulders and signal timing improvements.

All the options should be considered before implementing a major widening, the state&squo;s recommendation says.

With Polk County and all three towns approving the plan, the plan will now go to the Isothermal Rural Planning Organization (RPO), which was expected to meet recently.

Once the RPO endorses the plan, the state board of transportation will adopt the plan on behalf of the DOT.

The board of transportation will likely consider the plan sometime this fall.