Polk, Rutherford, McDowell create $291 million wish list of transportation projects

Published 5:43 pm Monday, February 2, 2009

A pedestrian bridge over I-26 in Columbus was the next most expensive project, estimated at $1.5 million.

Resurfacing of I-26 was one of the most expensive projects listed for all three counties and one of three projects listed for interstates. The other two major interstate projects were listed for McDowell County.

The RPO held its meeting last Thursday at Isothermal Planning and Development Commission (IPDC) in Rutherford County. Representatives from all three counties were present. From Polk County, Kipp McIntyre (economic development director) and Lynn Sprague (agriculture economic development director) attended, along with town representatives, Tryon councilman Dennis Durham and Columbus planner Daniel Hallstrom.

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The economic recovery act, which includes some funding for infrastructure, is currently in the U.S. Congress. If Congress approves the package, it will go to the state of North Carolina.

Joshua King of IPDC says it is currently unknown if the stimulus package will be approved and if so how much funding the package will provide.

The money, if approved, can be used to improve infrastructure locally. King said Polk officials discussed the need for a new I-26/Hwy. 74 interchange in Columbus, but that project could not be ready in time for the package. The stimulus package is only for projects that could begin within 90 days, King said.

King said much of last Thursday&squo;s meeting was outside-of-the-box thinking. He said the projects listed are really &dquo;pie in the sky&dquo; at this point.

&dquo;There were a lot of good ideas put on the table,&dquo; King said.

He said organizers know that very few, if any, of these projects will be funded, but figured it was worth a shot.

Other projects listed for Polk County include a 3-mile sidewalk for a Polk County greenway project estimated at $1.2 million and a two-mile sidewalk for Tryon&squo;s Vaughn&squo;s Creek Greenway project estimated at $800,000.

Columbus also listed Courthouse Square improvements, estimated at $947,000.

Car turnouts and scenic overlooks along the U.S. 176 scenic byway between Tryon and Saluda were listed at $500,000 as well as bicycle paved shoulders estimated at $200,000.

Other listed projects were a bicycle hub program at Harmon Field in Tryon, estimated at $75,000, and repaving of nine municipal roads along Hwy. 108, estimated at $91,000.

Polk County requested five percent of the total region&squo;s projects, with Rutherford County requesting 86 percent of the total projects and McDowell requesting nine percent.