NORTH WILKESBORO – Throughout the year, crews from the Department of Transportation worked toward the goals Governor Pat McCrory established in his 25-year Vision for transportation.
Teams from Division 11, which includes Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties, spent 2016 striving to improve connections across the state by enhancing mobility, reducing congestion and improving safety.
Crews completed sections of major projects and repaired potholes. They helped build a 2.2-mile greenway along Ararat River in Mt. Airy and built 12 substantial bridges. They shaved mountains to level grades and round curves, repaved old roads and laid asphalt on roads that will open in the spring — all to improve safety and connectivity in North Carolina
“The things we did this year — from improving highways to building greenways — follow the guide Governor McCrory set for us in his vision for transportation in North Carolina,” Division Engineer Mike Pettyjohn said. “We modernized a lot of roads, built a lot of bridges, constructed a really neat greenway and helped people get places safely and quickly.”
On a late July morning, a couple of kayakers floating on the New River in Sparta noticed a gathering of people by a bridge in Alleghany County. They watched Department of Transportation officials from Division 11 unveil a green metal sign naming a bridge in honor of Revolutionary War hero Martin Gamble.
The bridge naming was just one accomplishment for Division 11 this past year. A new system to manage citizen maintenance requests, such as reporting potholes or requesting a tree be trimmed, was implemented and initially presented challenges to maintenance crews in early 2016, but soon teams began filling those requests ahead of schedule.
In October, more than 100 staff members from Division 11 volunteered to spend one week in the Rocky Mount area assisting Division 4 crews in Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.
“We were able to help out because Hurricane Matthew did not devastate our area like it did in the central and eastern parts of the state,” Division 11 Maintenance Engineer Charles Reinhardt said. “Our crews helped the Rocky Mount area get back on its feet by removing debris and assisting in other recovery efforts.”
Bridge teams from Division 11 accomplished unprecedented goals by opening a dozen bridges in 2016, most of which were done with an express-design build method, which allows the development team to work directly with builders as the project progresses.
“The express-design build system is working very well,” Pettyjohn said. “Teams can work hand-in-hand instead of doing it one piece at a time.”
Construction crews from the division hit a major milestone in time for the Independence Day holiday when they opened all lanes of the U.S. 321 widening project through Blowing Rock. With Section A substantially completed, attention turned to construction down the mountain. Engineers anticipate the project finishing in 2017.
Large construction vehicles moved from the area when teams wrapped up a substantial modernization of U.S. 21 from Roaring Gap to Sparta this summer. The improvements open the main commercial route in Alleghany County. Lanes were widened, shoulders were paved and the work concluded one year ahead of schedule.
Other accomplishments opened access to recreation opportunities and foot traffic including a new 2.2-mile greenway connecter that links the Taylor and Ararat River greenway in Surry County.
Building on progress made in 2016, the new year will bring new opportunities to the state’s eastern mountains. Work on Section B of U.S. 321 south of Blowing Rock is slated to be completed in the fall and the department will open bidding for a new bridge over Millpond Lake in Granite Falls.
Progress is already underway on four of five sections of the U.S. 221 widening project from Deep Game to Jefferson, which will turn the corridor into a four-lane divided highway.
“The U.S. 221 widening project will improve safety and mobility and definitely have a positive economic impact on Ashe County,” Division Construction Engineer Trent Beaver said. “That corridor has the potential to be as important as widening U.S. 421 to four lanes through Wilkes and Watauga Counties.”