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Cooper Sellers, transportation engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, discusses the draft Watauga County Comprehensive Transportation Plan with public workshop attendees Thursday. Photo by Anna Oakes




Originally published: 2012-11-08 19:58:40
Last modified: 2012-11-08 19:58:40

Bypass top concern about transportation plan

by Anna Oakes

The majority of comments and questions about the drafted Comprehensive Transportation Plan for Watauga County are related to a proposed Boone bypass, said Craig Hughes, transportation planner for the High Country Council of Governments.

The council, the Regional Planning Organization for seven northwestern North Carolina counties, hosted a two-hour public workshop on Thursday for the draft CTP, which was presented to the public Oct. 11.

The deadline to submit public comment on the plan is Nov. 13. Hughes said he had received about 65 survey responses on the survey prior to the workshop.

Hughes said a lot of concerns and questions came from property owners near the proposed route of the bypass, which would travel south of Boone from U.S. 421.

The route runs parallel to Browns Chapel Road, across Bamboo Road, across Deerfield Road, across U.S. 321 near the Boone Golf Course, across Deck Hill and Winklers Creek roads, across Poplar Grove Road and then travels parallel to the N.C. 105 bypass back to U.S. 421 west of Boone.

As for other comments related to the bypass, Hughes said, “a lot of folks don’t see the need for it.”

Some workshop attendees said they would like to wait and see if the new U.S. 421 widening and the widening of U.S. 321 in Blowing Rock would alleviate traffic congestion in Boone before planning a new major project, noting the traffic deficiency maps were based on 2010 data.

But Hughes said the N.C. Department of Transportation would not construct a project of $150 million or more if it was determined it was not needed, adding that more thorough studies would be conducted before the project could be funded.

Donna Lisenby, the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, noted her concerns about the environmental impacts of a new bypass, which she said would cross through wetlands and over several creeks.

“There are other ways to solve traffic congestion,” she said, adding that she would like to see a list of options and alternatives rather than one project.

The CTP is a long-range, multimodal plan that will include four maps of transportation networks: highway, public transportation/rail, bicycle and pedestrian.

The plan reviews existing conditions and facilities and recommend improvements.

A steering committee has met since 2010 to develop the CTP.

A bypass has been proposed for Boone for decades.

Two years ago, NCDOT asked Watauga County local governments to selected one of four proposed bypass routes as their preferred alternative for the project, but local officials declined to choose a route until after the CTP was updated.

The project is not currently funded by NCDOT.

For more information about the project and to submit comments, visit http://www.regiond.org/WCTP.html or call (828) 265-5434.