Room filled with orange in opposition to Highway 9 expansion 

Published 11:33 am Friday, September 23, 2022

MILL SPRING – The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) held a public meeting on Thursday, September 22, to inform residents and local business owners of the proposed lane and shoulder improvements for N.C. Highway 9, and to gather public input on the proposed design. 

 

According to information provided on a presentation board, the meeting was the last one scheduled before construction begins. The NCDOT meeting fielded questions in written form only and there was no forum for public comment other than conversations with NCDOT representatives at three separate map areas spaced about the science room at Polk Central Elementary School. 

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The NCDOT has proposed improvements to N.C. 9 from N.C. 108 to U.S. 74 in the Mill Spring area of Polk County. The stated purpose of the project is to improve traffic flow and safety for all transportation users along the corridor, according to NCDOT Communications Officer Jen Thompson. 

 

The meeting drew a crowd of more than 300 according to NCDOT officials, with many of those wearing orange shirts stating “Save Hwy 9 – Stop Tax Dollar Waste” to express their opposition to the rural roadway project.

 

The scope of the project design has remained unchanged since the last public meeting held in April 2019. N.C. 9 is currently a two-lane roadway with no shoulder. The proposed changes will widen the travel lanes from 10 feet to 12 feet, add a six-foot paved shoulder, add turn lanes at Polk Central Elementary School, and provide drainage and utility improvements along the roadway.

N.C. Department of Transportation Engineer Wanda Austin shares details about the N.C. Highway 9 lane widening project at a public meeting in Mill Spring. (Photo by Terry Brown / Tryon Daily Bulletin)

According to Wanda Austin, NCDOT Division 14 engineer, the project has already received funding under the State Transportation Improvement Program.

 

“NCDOT identified needs in particular areas while putting together our Comprehensive Transportation Plan,” said Austin responding to why this particular section of N.C. 9 was chosen. “Local officials from the county including the sheriff and fire departments, school district and county commissioners all approved of the DOT proposal in 2019. We will be looking at the input gathered tonight and from those submitted online and we’ll be responding to all of those comments.”

 

Austin stated that right-of-way and compensation conversations have begun with landowners and will continue through the rest of the year. According to NCDOT presentation materials, there are 42 properties that will be impacted by the project. Construction is slated to begin in 2024.