Resident starts petition to stop Highway 9 project

Published 11:52 am Friday, August 26, 2022

Father and daughter make their voices known about Hwy. 9 widening project

 

POLK COUNTY––At the county commission meeting held on August 15, discussions included the public’s opinion of a proposed project on Highway 9 to expand the lanes by up to 8 feet on each side of the road, which followed a prior meeting about the initial proposal.

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Many residents of Highway 9 attended the meeting and expressed their frustrations about how the widening of the road might affect their land. Amanda Pack McCallister has started a petition in hopes of standing in the way of what she and many others are calling a “major safety issue.”

“Stop the Highway 9 Widening Project” is the name of her petition, which can be found at Change.org. McCallister started her petition on August 18. As of press time, the petition had a signature count of 702. 

According to McCallister’s research, the project will begin on Hwy. 9, and if it proves successful, the road widening may continue from Lake Lure to the South Carolina state line. The proposed date to start the project is ultimately October of 2023, beginning with utility relocation. In the fall of 2024, road construction is expected to begin. Currently, the land is being surveyed.

“I grew up on Highway 9, and my parents are on 9, along with my sister and her family,” she says. McCallister is a resident of Columbus, though her entire family, including cousins and grandparents, live along Hwy. 9.

“Right now, the estimation [for the project] is $12.2 million. That is a projection from NCDOT.gov.,” she states.

This project is going to affect 42 properties along the 2.7-mile stretch of roadway that NCDOT is planning to widen, according to McCallister’s research. She shares that many of the comments on her petition are from Hwy. 9 landowners and other Polk County residents alike, who agree that the project is a “waste of money.”

McCallister’s father, Mitch Pack, owns land on both sides of Hwy. 9, says, “As a taxpayer, that’s a lot of money.”


Some signatures on McCallister’s petition have been from those outside of Polk County—people who use to live in the area, have family here, or commuters who travel Hwy. 9 frequently.

“Some seem to be people who respect the fact that we want to keep the county rural,” she says.

She and her dad both agree that increased speed on Highway 9 would be a  problem.

“Already, people travel too fast on this highway,” she says. Once the project is completed and there is 6 feet of paved shoulder on both roadsides, it will appear to be a four-lane highway, she says, even though it is a two-lane road.

“It’ll give people the opportunity to pass cars. The highway will come close to residents’ homes. If they travel at a high speed in front of their yards, they won’t be safe,” she says


Pack, a lifelong resident of the area, is just one resident who claims they’ll lose a portion of their property. He and his daughter both believe that the problem can be solved by reducing the speed limit to 45 miles per hour.

“Speed is the problem, and people use Highway 9 as a racetrack. I don’t want to be in the way of safety, but if they lower the speed limit, it seems like a reasonable, cheaper alternative,” Pack says.


Pack says he went to both meetings and discovered that he will lose quite a bit of land to the proposed 8 feet of extra roadway.


He adds that, according to his research, a resident near Mill Spring will lose her well and septic system to the project, and another residence will be dangerously close to the proposed widened road.

 
“Deb’s Mini Mart will lose a portion of their parking lot, the way it appears,” Pack says. “I’ll lose property on both sides of the road.”

Polk County commissioners currently do not support the Hwy. 9 project. McCallister says that during the August 15 meeting, the commissioners made it clear that those who oppose the project need to attend a  public meeting being held on September 22.

At this public meeting next month, McCallister plans to present her petition to NCDOT who is coming to speak with landowners and stakeholders.

“We’re going to let our voice be known that we don’t want this. The petition is a good way to show how many people are not behind this,” she says. “I don’t want to see landowners, some who have lived there for decades, lose their land and their rural way of life due to a project that is simply not needed.”

She urges everyone who does not support the project to attend the public meeting on September 22 at Polk Central Elementary School from 5-7 p.m.

For those who wish to sign the “Stop the Highway 9 Widening Project” petition, visit Change.org. The petition closes on September 22.