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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Four steps forward after a giant leap back

Twenty years ago, when Henderson County longed for state road money and got none, political and business leaders would have been celebrating recent news on highway funding.

Now business leadership has vanished. No member of the Chamber of Commerce or the Partnership for Economic Development ever stands up to make the broader point that infrastructure improvement is needed if we are to meet the demands of future growth.
After folding on the Balfour Parkway before they even saw how the cards would lay, county commissioners have — so far — withstood demands from homeowners to scrap the N.C. 191 widening project.
Major policy decisions have consequences. By voting 4-1 in May to kill the Balfour Parkway, county commissioners emboldened highway improvement project opponents for years to come. If the Balfour Parkway is not needed, neither is … fill-in-the-blank.
Against the county’s regrettable act of shortsightedness, there are encouraging signs on three other fronts, thanks to stronger-spined elected leaders in Hendersonville, Mills River, Laurel Park and Flat Rock.
In all three communities, town boards have endured the persistent cries of the vocal minority and voted for projects that will improve safety and result in attractive and efficient roads.
The Mills River Town Board, facing threats from angry homeowners, held its ground and voted in favor of a five-lane widening of N.C. 191 from Schoolhouse Road to N.C. 280. The Laurel Park Town Council has endorsed the plan that would result in four roundabouts along U.S. 64. The Flat Rock Village Council, which withstood months of withering criticism from historic preservationists and others over the improvement of North Highland Lake Road, received the official — and unsurprising — ruling that carving out a 1,800-square-foot triangle of land for eastbound turns from Greenville Highway does not mortally wound the Historic Flat Rock District. (In exchange for this taking of one-twentieth of an acre, the NCDOT promised eight more concessions in landscaping and esthetic enhancements.)
Just last week, the Hendersonville City Council endorsed three roundabouts at the city’s south gateway, including a two-lane version where South Main, Church and King converge. Newfangled sounding? Maybe. A progressive solution? Yes.
Will the construction zones in our future be disruptive? Absolutely. Highway construction happens where cars want to go.
“I know people don’t want us to do anything but that’s not an option,” Mayor Barbara Volk said.

“We can’t just keep kicking the can down the road,” City Councilman Steve Caraker added.
Years ago, before Henderson County got its fair share of state road money, the Legislature and NCDOT were the big impediments to roadwork in these parts. Now, Raleigh is sending money to build the projects that local officials have ranked at the top. It’s good to see that, at least in four of our towns, elected leaders are standing up to the road opponents and standing, on behalf of the motoring public, for attractive, more efficient and safer roads.