Mixed emotions were expressed Tuesday as Lenoir County residents got the opportunity to look over proposals to widen U.S. 258.¬†
Officials from N.C. Department of Transportation and CALYX Engineers and Consultants of Cary met with the public in the cafeteria of North Lenoir High School to answer questions and listen to comments about the proposed $47 million widening project from C.F. Harvey Parkway to approximately 0.5 mile south of Browntown Road.¬†
Edith Drake, who lives at the corner of Grace Mill Road and U.S. 258, said the widening project was long overdue to take care of the volume of traffic on U.S. 258, particularly with left-turning traffic. She said she can sit on her porch and watch near misses on the roadway half a dozen times a day.¬†
‚ÄúI am conscious of how stupid drivers are by abusing turn lanes and treating them as passing lanes,‚ÄĚ Drake said. ‚ÄúAnd except for the fact that the people they kill, who were not stupid, it‚Äôs a shame to have to do something of this nature in order to compensate for drivers driving stupidly.‚ÄĚ
But Drake said she has concerns with the widening project.
‚ÄúWhen they bring it back in from a divided highway where people think it is OK to run 80 and 90 miles per hour and they tie it back in to the pure surface with a turn lane you‚Äôre going to kill people,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúSame driver stupidity. We‚Äôre setting the stage for that to be rather catastrophic. That‚Äôs a personal opinion.‚ÄĚ¬†
Drake does admit something needs to be done. But she wants to see turn lanes put in.¬†
Rachelle Beauregard, project manager for NCDOT, Division 2, said once U.S. 258 is widened along the proposed 4.3 miles from C.F. Harvey Parkway no one will be able to turn left from driveways or intersections.¬†
The four-lane will be a ‚Äúsuper street‚ÄĚ that only allows right turns. There will be turn-arounds at the intersections that motorists can use to turn around and go the other way, Beauregard said.¬†
‚ÄúThat is to reduce the amount of conflict points and crashes because U.S. 258 has a higher crash rate than normal U.S. routes,‚ÄĚ she said.¬†
Over a five-year period between 2012-15 there were 166 crashes on U.S. 258. Similar U.S. routes during a three year period between 2013-15 had 109 crashes, Beauregard said.¬†
Colista Freeman, project consultant with CALYX Engineers and Consultants of Cary, said the widening of that section of U.S. 258 should make it safer for motorists.
‚ÄúThe main purpose for this is for safety improvements, to help reduce crashes,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe are also hoping to create a regional connectivity between Greenville and Kinston.‚ÄĚ
Morris Lee, who lives on U.S. 258 said on the weekends that section of road is packed with traffic.¬†
‚ÄúI know we can‚Äôt hold up progress,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúBut I‚Äôm sure this move is about people going from Raleigh to the coast. That has a lot to do with it.‚ÄĚ¬†
Lee didn‚Äôt say how he felt about the proposed turn-arounds to avoid left turns onto U.S. 258 but he slightly shook his head.¬†
‚ÄúWhen I pull out of my driveway, I will have to go south and then turn around and go north for half a mile to get to my son‚Äôs house,‚ÄĚ he said.
Lee said he has tolerated the speeding traffic on U.S. 258 for more than 40 years and he didn‚Äôt believe the widening of the road would fix that even though he was told the speed limit would remain at 55 mph.
‚ÄúMaybe it will be better,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúBut it‚Äôs not going to help the speed. Maybe it will cut down on the passing though.‚ÄĚ¬†
Construction on the widening project that will turn the two-lane into a four-lane highway with a median is scheduled to begin sometime in 2025.¬†
Sometime in the future DOT is hoping to get the funding to widen U.S. 258 toward Snow Hill and a bypass around that town. But there is no schedule set for that project, Freeman said.¬†
Project information and materials for the U.S. 258 widening project can be viewed as they become available online at https://publicinput.com/us258_widening.¬†
For additional information, you may contact one of the following individuals: Rachelle Beauregard, NCDOT Division 2, Project Manager at P.O. Box 1587, Greenville, N.C. 27835, (919) 239-7168, or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Colista Freeman, Project Consultant – CALYX Engineers and Consultants at 6750 Tryon Road, Cary, N.C. 27518, (919) 858-1848, or email@example.com.