Surveys out soon

Published 11:35 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019

State working on Polk County transportation plan

COLUMBUS—For the first time ever, surveys about Polk County’s transportation system will be sent to every resident soon. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday night and heard from North Carolina Department of Transportation Planning Division’s Dominique Boyd. 

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Boyd reviewed the comprehensive transportation plan, which is a long-range multi-mobile plan. 

“We are looking 25-30 years out,” Boyd said. 

The Isothermal Rural Planning Organization and the NCDOT are preparing the plan for Polk County. The plan will include road maps, rail maps and bicycle and pedestrian maps. 

Boyd said surveys should be mailed out to every resident in November. The survey will also be available electronically. 

According to NCDOT figures, Polk County is projected to have a 0.6 percent growth per year in population. In 2017, Polk County’s population was 21,200 people and in 2045, Polk County’s population is projected to be 25,200.

“So we are looking at in 28 years only increasing in population by 4,000 people,” Commissioner Chair Tommy Melton asked. “Is there any way to know the age range of those 4,000 people?” 

Boyd said he doesn’t know what the age range will be but he could find out. 

County Manager Marche Pittman said if the population stays consistent, 35 percent of Polk’s population is over age 65.  

Polk County’s employment was 8,700 in 2017 and is projected to grow 0.6 percent in 2045 to 10,300 employees. 

Boyd said the survey is pretty simple and is geared to give residents an opportunity to address some of the issues that are going on in the county. 

Melton gave residents an opportunity to ask questions about the survey. One resident said the transportation plan should address transportation by horse in the county as well as issues pertaining to motorists and wildlife. 

“Participation (with the survey) is going to be critical,” Pittman said. “We’re going to do everything on our side to get people to take the survey.” 

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked Boyd if they have done similar surveys in other counties. 

NCDOT officials said survey responses have ranged from 30 people to 3,000 in other counties, but this is the first survey in NCDOT’s history they are mailing out to every resident. Officials said they are hoping for at least a 10-20 percent response. 

Gasperson said he wished the survey asked people if they want to see any four-land or divided roads in the county. He mentioned the former Highway 108 project between Columbus and Tryon and said it was hard to find anyone in the county who wanted a four-lane road. 

“With the projected growth, it’s going to be hard to justify,” Gasperson said. 

Melton asked if the NCDOT has made the presentation to the county’s municipalities with Boyd answering they have not yet. 

Melton said he was disappointed in the amount of people who attended Monday’s meeting. 

“I wish this room was packed with citizens wanting to ask questions,” Melton said. 

The survey will ask questions like how good, congested, safe and easy to travel Polk County’s roads are; how willing people are to live with traffic at peak hours; how much people are in favor of widening roads in Polk County; if Polk County should have more sidewalks, greenways and crosswalks; if people would be more likely to ride a bicycle if lanes and paved shoulders were available; how likely people are to use public transit and how likely people are to support transit expansion instead of road widening. 

Commissioners approved a resolution to participate in the transportation plan.