The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has begun the next phase in the widening of highway 321 by notifying Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation (BREMCO) that the cooperative must begin moving power lines out of the state’s construction zone for the Hwy 321 road widening project.
BREMCO was to schedule to begin moving lines on Monday (Dec 5). Heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday, and snow in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday have delayed initial progress.
With all the rain/snow in the area this week and to come, Blue Ridge Electric’s director of public relations Renee Whitener adds that “Our goal is to ensure the power lines are moved safely and in a manner that keeps electricity flowing reliably for our members, especially during the winter season when our area typically has the most severe weather.”
The project will take place along the existing power line route along Hwy 321 from Possum Hollow Road across from Shops on the Parkway to the intersection of Hwy. 321 and 321 Bypass (near Broyhill Furniture showroom) and will involve removing trees and brush from the right-of-way. Blue Ridge Electric encourages local citizens and visitors to exercise extra caution when encountering construction crews in this area. This phase will last approximately eight weeks.
Blue Ridge Electric is contracting with Asplundh Tree Expert Co. for tree removal, which is also necessary for road widening. As part of the agreement with NCDOT, Asplundh will remove trees and brush while the NCDOT will be responsible for larger debris and stump removal. All efforts will be made to maintain access to roads and minimize inconveniences during construction.
Plans to begin the road construction phase are slated for Spring 2012.
According to a Watauga Democrat article “The NCDOT plan ensures that fire trucks and emergency vehicles will be able to turn left from Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue. The detailed plan also mentions the replacement of stone walls in town limits, installation of a retaining wall at the Blowing Rock Country Club to minimize harm to the golf course and even the relocation or replacement of a set of blueberry bushes near The Rock Road.
The highway speed limit is recommended at 45 mph in some areas and at 35 mph near the Green Park Inn and in town limits.
The project is estimated to cost more than $50 million.”
NCDOT has worked with the Town of Blowing Rock and the State Historic Preservation Office to plan aesthetic improvements that will be included as part of the road project, especially within the historic district of Blowing Rock. For example, the State has set aside funds to place electric services underground along this area once the road is completed. Other beautification efforts will include a mini park across from Cliff Dwellers Inn and landscaping designed to create a scenic gateway into Blowing Rock.