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Proposal to widen N.C. 43 expected to reduce crashes, traffic headaches

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Preston Hunter, Division Engineer, left, shows a woman a location on a map during an NCDOT Public meeting at the Pitt County Council on Aging, Tuesday.


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A proposal to widen a three-mile stretch of N.C. 43 South from  two to four lanes drew a crowd to a North Carolina Department of Transportation public input session on Tuesday evening.

The meeting sought local comments on the proposal, which also would close access to N.C. 43 South from Bells Fork Road and add roundabouts at the intersection of Worthington Road and Mills Road, near D.H. Conley High School, and at the intersection of Signature Drive and N.C. 43 South. 

DOT engineers said the project is intended to reduce crashes and improve traffic flow, as N.C. 43 South is a busy stretch of road.  

”The crash rate along N.C. 43 South and the severity of the crashes we have studied in the past few years is actually the highest in North Carolina,” said Hon Yeung, the project’s team lead engineer. “Improving safety and improving mobility are two of the biggest purposes of this project.”  

Yeung noted that any widening project affects property surrounding the roadway.

“At this phase, we are at the very preliminary phases of it, so we don’t know exactly how many parcels would be impacted and how severe the impact would be,”  Yeung said. “We are looking at everything we can do to minimize the footprint and minimize the impact to parcel owners.” 

One homeowner who attended the meeting found out her home would likely have to be demolished to make way for the widening project.   

“I’m devastated,” said Vivian Branch of Greenville. “When I bought this house, I went and did the inside of it. I put on a new roof, I put in new windows, new floors, new doors, added a garage. In 2006. I redid this little house and it’s beautiful on the inside. It’s upsetting because the money I have spent on this is incredible.

“It’s very disappointing because I’m going to have to look for a place to go and I don’t know how much they’re going to pay me and won’t know until eight or nine months,” Branch said.

Division Project Development Engineer Jeff Cabannis said he sympathized with Branch.

“Anytime you go from a two-lane to a four lane divider it’s going to be more impactful,” Cabannis said, adding that homeowners receive fair market value for their property.  

“Primarily we appraise it and get an individual that appraises the house like if your were going to sell it,” he said. “And then we have that checked by another independent appraiser and they try to figure out what the fair market value for the property is and then that’s what we offer the homeowner.”

Cabannis was quick to point out that the proposal is not final at this point and that comments received will be taken into consideration as the DOT plans the construction. 

“This is very preliminary and we’re getting feedback tonight,” he said. “We’ll have to sit down in the next few months and come up with and decide which is the more attractive alternative overall. From not just impacts to people but impacts to other properties, environmental impacts, impacts to utilities, take all that and look and see which one is the best fit for us to go forward.”

Yeung said that he had spoken to several people who understand the need for the project.  

“There are definitely a lot of people right now and so far I’ve talked with maybe four or five people myself and they have not been very negative,” Yeung said. “They, in general, are accepting of the project. 

“I think the public is getting used to the idea of what we call reduced conflict intersections,”  Yeung said. “The public is thinking this is a safer option so in general, they are more accepting of these types of projects.”

A former Pitt County Commissioner who lives on N.C. 43 South came out to see the plans and weigh in on the proposal.  

“I knew this was happening but I didn’t realize it would be happening as soon as they say it’s going to happen,” Jimmy Garris said.  “It’s for the benefit of all, which means some individuals will have to make some sacrifices.  And I understand that. It’s necessary.” 

Garris who likely will lose a some land if the project goes on as proposed, said he would prefer not to have a four-lane roadway in his front yard, “but from an overall point of view, I know that it is necessary because the traffic on 43 is terrible and this should help.”

Nancy Evans, who also lives on N.C. 43 near Hollywood Church, said she was elated by the proposal.  

“I’m very excited about it,” Evans said.  It takes us sometimes 10 minutes to get out on the highway in the mornings.  We live near Hollywood Church and it’s very busy. I’m excited they’re thinking about a roundabout. 

The next phase of the project involves a state environmental assessment which is expected to begin in September. From there, a right of way acquisition is scheduled for the Spring of 2021 with construction beginning in the Spring of 2023.  

The estimated cost for the project is $30.2 million.       

DOT officials are encouraging citizens to view the proposal and comment at publicinput.com/NC43-Charles-Blvd or contact  project engineer Casey Whitley at 439-2811.