County holds public hearing on Comprehensive Transportation Plan
Published 12:32 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Board unanimously approves motion to affirm plan despite controversy
POLK COUNTY – On Monday, March 20, the Polk County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing to discuss the proposed Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
The Board later unanimously approved a motion to affirm the Comprehensive Transportation Plan during its regular meeting.
The CTP is a joint effort between Polk, Rutherford, and McDowell counties, the Foothills Rural Planning Organization, and the NCDOT. It includes the proposed modernization and widening of roads and highways throughout the county. The multi-modal plan also includes proposed improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.
Board Chairman Tommy Melton explained to those in attendance that the Board wanted to give the public another opportunity to voice their opinions on the CTP. The municipalities have already approved the plan, and Polk County was the final approval needed.
Dominique Boyd with the NCDOT gave a short presentation discussing the plan and its history. He stated that work on the projected improvements in the plan will occur over 30 years.
Another representative of the NCDOT, Andy Bailey, said they saw no need for widening lanes inside municipalities. Bailey did have some suggestions regarding local highways but noted that each project will be looked at individually on a case-by-case basis according to the prioritization set by the Board.
“It’s important to note that modernizations do not mean adding four feet of shoulder for every road,” said Bailey. “It means that we’re going to look at these individually and get the character of the road and go forth like that.”
When asked about the timeline for various projects in the plan, Allen Toney with the NCDOT said the first step would be a meeting between an RPO representative, NCDOT staff and the Board of Commissioners.
“Any project submitted would need to be approved by the Polk County Board of Commissioners,” said Toney.
Polk County resident Karen Pack expressed that while she was aware of the effort put into the CTP, it didn’t include cooperation with the public. “Our input has been mostly ignored, and the values of the public should be first and foremost in the decision-making process,” said Pack, elaborating on her concern about the widening of roads and the danger they could pose. Pack added “I ask that you don’t approve this plan tonight. I’m asking that you take a look at the impact this plan will have on property owners and businesses.”
Dorothy Easley also addressed the board, saying narrower roads and slower speeds produce safer roadways.
“It’s a supply-driven plan, it’s not a needs-driven plan, and the citizens of Polk county don’t appreciate it,” Easley told the Commissioners.
Becky Oliver expressed her frustration, telling the board, “the roads around here, we need the maintenance, from what I understand you don’t have the money for that, but you want to put in biking lanes and pedestrian lanes. We’re asking you to please not make a decision on this tonight, please listen to your citizens.”
Commissioner Myron Yoder assured the public that he is not for the widening of roads, but is in favor of the improvements. He also emphasized that not everything in the plan is guaranteed to take place, and nothing will go forward without approval from the Board.
“I’m concerned about your safety, but not for widening roads or making our county less rural,” said Yoder. “We’ve got a jewel in Polk county, and that’s the way we want to keep it.”
Commissioner Andre Overholt stressed that the plan will take place over 30 years, so some aspects may not be needed now but may be needed in the future. He assured the public that while not everything in the plan will definitely take place, everything in the plan deserves attention.
“The process we have in place gives us the ability to have more input, gives you guys [the community] more input,” added Commissioner Paul Beiler. “We are keeping this county rural, and now things cannot get steamrolled.”