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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

‘Wish list’ plots future for southern Pitt roads

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By Angela Harne and Lucas Simonds
The Times Leader

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A bevy of improvements are recommended for roads in southern Pitt County in the coming years, although some officials in Ayden and Winterville disappointed some improvements were not included in long-term plan.

A newly revised Comprehensive Transportation Plan last week went before the Greenville Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes Greenville, Winterville, Ayden, Simpson and parts of Pitt County.

The CTP is a 30-year “long-term wish-list of recommended transportation improvements and does not have a specific timeline, cost, or funding source, according to the MPO.

The plan was last updated in 2011, and work on revisions began in 2016, according to Ryan Purtle, a transportation planner for Greenville Public Works and MPO coordinator.

Ayden held a public hearing on the CTP Aug. 14, with no comments made by the public. The Ayden Board of Commissioners unanimously recommended approval of the plan. The Winterville Town Council also approved the plan Aug. 14 by a 4-0 vote. Councilman Tony Moore was not in attendance.

Despite approval, Winterville officials vocalized their disappointment with the N.C. Department of Transportation’s action to fix the state roads throughout town.

“Winterville and Pitt County don’t get their fair share. I don’t know where the money is going, but it is not Winterville. Winterville is surrounded by state roads — Cooper, Main, Mill, Laurie Ellis, Vernon White — and they are not in good shape. I’m very disappointed,” said Winterville Mayor Pro-tem Mark Smith.

Winterville Councilman John Hill added, “Give the money to local folks, and we could get it done a whole lot faster.”

Smith asked when Laurie Ellis Road would be improved.

“The road is falling apart,” he said.

Laurie Ellis is on the wish list, but a scheduled date for improvement is unknown, according to Winterville’s assistant town manager Ben Williams.

“Cooper Street is listed as ‘needs improvement,’” Smith said, referring to the CTP. “That is an understatement. What’s the plan?”

The improvements to Cooper Street would include a three-lane with curb and gutter.

“What’s the timetable on that? My kids will ride on it, but not me?” Smith asked.

Purtle reiterated that the CTP is a 30-year plan, which “identifies need.” The projects must then be pushed into the transportation department’s 10-year plan, where funding occurs.

The CTP recommends a wide range of changes for roads in the southern part of the county, ranging from new four-lane expressways to minor improvements on two-lane streets.

One major change recommended in the CTP, the Southwest Bypass, is already well on its way toward completion.

The CTP also recommends a Southeast Bypass, which would begin south of Ayden at N.C. 11 and loop east around Greenville and Simpson with interchanges at East Avenue, N.C. 102, N.C. 43, Mobleys Bridge Road and N.C. 33.

North of N.C. 33, it would connect with the Northeast Bypass, which would continue around north of Greenville to connect with U.S. 264.

Zooming in from that large project, a number of changes are proposed in and around Winterville.

Fire Tower Road is recommended to be extended past N.C. 11 as a four-lane divided boulevard to Forlines Road.

“Forlines needs works. It is the bypass exit into town,” said Winterville Councilwoman Veronica Roberson.

The state is aware of the need and is “focused in with greater detail” to the area, Williams said.

“The Fire Tower extension and Forlines to the Southwest Bypass widening is all one project. Fire Tower, Reedy Branch and Forlines (will connect) as Warren Drive loop. (The new traffic pattern) will utilize the existing Reedy Branch. The only new construction will link Fire Tower to Reedy Branch,” Purtle said.

Reedy Branch is recommended as a three-lane road with a turning lane, curb and gutter, bike lanes and side walks between the Fire Tower extension and Forlines Road.

Old Tar Road is recommended to be widened to a four-lane divided boulevard starting at the intersection with Cooper and Worthington Streets and running north to Fire Tower Road. Running south toward Laurie Ellis Road, Old Tar Road is recommended to be widened to four lanes, but not divided.

Worthington Road is recommended to be widened to four lanes with bike lanes and sidewalk running east from Old Tar Road to N.C. 43.

On the west side of Old Tar, Cooper Street is recommended to be widened to a three-lane road.

Mill Street is recommended to be widened to four lanes with curbs and gutters, bike lanes and sidewalks starting at Laurie Ellis Road and running north to the intersection with N.C. 11.

Winterville Councilman Johnny Moye questioned why the configuration of Mill Street that now runs into Winterville Parkway and features a stop sign intersection at Vernon White Road does not appear on the wish list.

“An upgrade is needed. That area is crazy,” Moye said.

Purtle said, “It is on a priority list. We are aware its wonky.”

Moye asked, “So there are no plans? I hope we don’t wait until something bad happens.”

The area is prone to accidents, according to Roberson.

“There have already been lots of accidents there ever since it was built,” she said.

Laurie Ellis Road is recommended to be extended from the intersection with Mill Street west across N.C. 11 to Reedy Branch Road.

Forlines Road is recommended to be widened to four lanes with bike lanes and sidewalks starting at N.C. 11 and running west to the future intersection with the Southwest Bypass.

East of Winterville, Corey Road is recommended to be expanded to a three-lane road with a turning lane, curbs and gutters, bike lanes and sidewalks between Worthington Road and Fire Tower Road.

County Home Road is recommended to be widened to a four-lane divided road with bike lanes and sidewalks between Worthington and Fire Tower roads.

Moving south of Winterville, Jack Jones Road is recommended to be realigned so that it intersects directly with Reedy Branch Road at Old Tar Road. From that new intersection to County Home Road, it is recommended Jack Jones Road be expanded to four lanes.

In Ayden, a number of improvements, as well as several new roads, are recommended.

Ayden Golf Club Road is recommended to have widened lanes with bike lanes and sidewalks beginning at N.C. 102 and running all the way to County Home Road.

South of N.C. 102, it is recommended that Ayden Golf Club road be extended to Weyerhauser Road as a two-lane road with curbs and gutters, bike lanes and sidewalks.

Juanita Avenue is also recommended to be extended in two places, both as a two-lane roads with bike lanes and sidewalks. One extension would run from the south end of South Juanita Avenue, curving around to cross Old N.C. 11 and end at Weyerhauser Road. The second extension would connect North Juanita Avenue to N.C. 11.

Third Street between Verna Avenue and N.C. 11 is recommended to be widened to four lanes with bike lanes and sidewalks.

Jolly Road is also recommended to be widened to four lanes with bike lanes and sidewalks from Third Street to N.C. 11.

The MPO planning area ends just south of Ayden.

All of the recommendations in the CTP are based on based on an assessment of the needs of the communities they serve, Purtle said in an interview Thursday.

“These are all identified needs, projects that we want to do and need to do,” Purtle said. “There has to be substantial evidence based on the capacity of the roads and the traffic on them.”

While the projects are needed, there is no guarantee when or if state funding will become available to complete them, Purtle added.

The full CTP, including maps of proposed changes, is available online at greenvillenc.gov. Search “MPO” and scroll down the MPO webpage to find the “Comprehensive Transportation Plan.”

The Times-Leader serves southern Pitt County including the towns of Ayden, Grifton and Winterville.

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