Proposed road changes – A different view

Published 12:51 pm Friday, June 2, 2017

I’m responding to recent letters about proposed changes to area roads. I’d like to offer a different perspective.

Regarding the new exit plan to allow direct I-26 to US-74 access without using the Columbus roundabout, I’m in favor of that change based on personal experience. I grew up in a popular beach area that had several traffic circles and many thousands of visitors all summer, every summer. I’ve also driven around enough traffic circles in different locales to know that they don’t all use the same traffic flow and right of way rules, which can be confusing for out-of-towners. And I occasionally transport my trail horse in a fairly large trailer myself.

This I know for sure: You really do not want to force increasing numbers of horse trailers to go around our Columbus roundabouts. These trailers can be large, unwieldy, and slow – especially when driven in new areas by cautious amateurs like myself. A line of horse trailers could clog up the roundabouts, back up traffic, and make it hard for drivers yielding from Columbus, Tryon, or I-26 to even get on. And heaven forbid there’s an accident, with horses having to be unloaded and reloaded in a replacement trailer…when it gets there.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

So while having direct access from I-26 to US-74 will make it easier for “the horsepeople” to get to TIEC, it would also prevent problems for everyone else who uses the roundabouts.

Regarding the second road issue – the widening of Hwy. 108 between Columbus and Tryon – like everyone else who has weighed in, I strongly oppose it. I really enjoy the scenic and leisurely “errand loop” I make a couple of times a week through Columbus, Tryon, and Landrum.

But I’m puzzled about why earlier letter writers think TIEC is behind the 108-widening plan. I can’t see that TIEC would have anything to gain by it. They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars at TIEC and one of the ways they will recoup their investment is by having their visitors spend money in the onsite restaurants, shops and lodging. That’s just basic economics. TIEC may encourage people to visit Historic Tryon while they’re here, but to the extent a four-lane road is required? That makes no sense to me.

So I researched the background of the widening proposal with the county manager’s office and by re-reading a Bulletin article first published on March 15 (available on the Bulletin’s website). It appears that the proposed widening was suggested by NC DOT as part of their ongoing studies of traffic counts on state highways, in search of future efficiencies. Some of you may remember a similar “improvement” suggested by DOT several years ago that contemplated putting a by-pass road through historic Hunting Country to avoid the towns altogether. DOT held meetings, citizens were vocally and unanimously opposed, tents were folded up, and nothing had been heard about it since.

Interestingly though, in the recent Bulletin article DOT’s Brian Burch said the widening of 108 “was identified as far back as 2008.” So doesn’t this have the whiff of just being Take 2 on DOT’s earlier “improvement” proposal? Perhaps if they meet with the same kind of citizen response, they may realize again that we in Polk County are less interested in “future efficiency” than we are in maintaining our charming small towns and curving scenic roads.

So my suggestion is that we recognize the benefits that the revamped exit plan will bring and focus on organizing, when time comes, against the Hwy. 108 widening.

Judy Heinrich, Green Creek, N.C.