County manager confirms DOT scraps 4-lane plan for Hwy. 108

Published 3:11 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

COLUMBUS – Polk County Manager Marche Pittman publicly announced this week that the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has scrapped its plans to make Hwy. 108 between Columbus and Tryon four lanes.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, June 5 and heard from Pittman during his manager’s report.

Pittman said he, NCDOT officials and representatives from Columbus and Tryon had a meeting last week regarding the corridor between Columbus and Tryon. Pittman said the state had previously discussed making Hwy. 108 four lanes between the two towns but NCDOT officials said at the meeting the four-lane option is off the table.

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Pittman said when state officials first approached the county and towns, local government officials, including himself, said the idea of a four-lane highway would not be well received. Pittman also mentioned a public meeting the Town of Tryon held earlier this year that was also not well received by the public.

Following the announcement by the state in January that four lanes were being considered for Hwy. 108, Tryon held a meeting on Feb. 21 where about 100 people attended, most overwhelmingly against a four-lane highway.

Pittman said this week that it seems the state is now planning a two-lane highway with a turning lane in the middle in high traffic areas, like one potentially at the Lynn Post Office.

“(The state) is going to (include turn lanes) based on traffic counts,” Pittman said.

The state will likely not have engineering plans until the spring of next year, according to Pittman. The Bulletin met with NCDOT officials earlier this year and state officials said then a public meeting is planned for the spring of next year.

“One of the main things they said,” Pittman said, “is they don’t want to do anything the local governments and citizens don’t agree with.”

NCDOT told the Bulletin that there were other options being considered after the public did not approve of the four-lane highway, including turning lanes, a median and bicycle lanes.

Pittman said during last week’s meeting bicycle lanes were not discussed.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked Pittman Monday when the state is planning construction.

Pittman said he believes not until 2021.

Pittman also said money is available for the project now and if the state doesn’t look at improvements now, the chances of the county being able to see improvements in the future are slim.

Commissioner Shane Bradley asked Pittman if he had any idea where the state got the idea for a four-lane highway. Pittman said he thinks it was based on traffic counts and the predictions for growth in the area over the next 20-30 years.

Pittman also said he is working on a summary he plans to distribute by the end of the week as well as a public announcement regarding the meeting he will put on the county’s Facebook page and website.

Commissioner chair Tommy Melton asked if the area on the left side going towards Tryon before the Lynn Post Office is a flood plain. Pittman answered that he believes it is. Melton said he is just trying to understand why the state would want to put a four-lane through a flood plain.

A proposal to widen 3.5 miles between the roundabout in Columbus and the intersection of Hwy. 108 and U.S. 176 in Tryon is currently on the state’s draft 2018-2017 State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). The project was originally estimated to cost $47,300,000.

Stayed tuned to the Bulletin for updates on this story as more information becomes available.