Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

NCDOT seeks to delay $292 million in road projects in Henderson County

Nearly all the major state highway projects scheduled for construction in Henderson County would be postponed — some for years — under a recommendation the cash-strapped NCDOT has sent to regional planning agencies.

The project delays are part of the transportation agency's response to a cash crisis that had already frozen most projects across the state, led to layoffs and furloughs and reduced money for routine maintenance and repairs.
The proposal would postpone 13 major projects and $292 million worth of right-of-way and construction costs in Henderson County. The delays range from relatively short — the $91 million four-laning of N.C. 191 from Mountain Road to N.C. 280 would be postponed just one year, to 2024 — to long — the much-contested Kanuga Road widening from Church Street to Little River Road would be pushed from 2024 to beyond 2029.

The I-26 widening from Four Seasons Boulevard to the U.S. 25 Connector (5 miles), an $80 million job that completes the six-laning project in Henderson County, would be pushed off the current state transportation plan, into the 2030s. The Highland Lake Road project in Flat Rock is one of the new projects not significantly postponed. The project, which is now opposed by a majority of the Village Council, is scheduled to start next spring, only a few months later than its original date.
The NCDOT sent the recommended delays to the regional transportation planning agencies across the state that plan state road projects, including the French Broad MPO.
“It’s all related to the cash flow problems that DOT announced last fall and that became very serious in May,” said Henderson County Commissioner Bill Lapsley, who also serves as chair of the MPO. “The department had a minimum amount of cash they had to keep in their checking account in order to operate and they got below that minimum, which put them in crisis mode. The DOT has been trying to figure out the impact on long-term projects. My understanding is this is the result of what they decided to recommend.”
The projects, cost and NCDOT’s recommended delay for construction (years are the state’s fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30) are:
• Tracy Grove Road bridge replacement over Devils Fork Creek, $1.15 million, 2020 to 2022.
• Blythe Street sidewalks from U.S. 64 to N.C. 191, $960,000, 2023 to 2026.
• South Grove Street sidewalks from Barnwell Street to Spartanburg Highway, $904,000, 2023 to 2026.
• I-26, Four Seasons Boulevard to U.S. 25 Connector (5 miles), $80 million (including $2 million for right of way) 2027 to beyond 2029.
• I-26 interchange improvement at Four Seasons Boulevard, $29.4 million (including $6 million for right of way), 2027 to beyond 2029.
• I-26 repaving from mile marker 50 to Polk County line, $4.45 million, 2022 to 2025.
• N.C. 191 from Mountain Road to N.C. 280, $90.64 million (including right of way), right of way delayed from 2020 to 2022; construction delayed from 2023 to 2024.
• Kanuga Road from Church Street to Little River Road, $13 million, 2024 to beyond 2029.
• U.S. 64 from Blythe Street to White Pine Drive, $17.87 million, 2023 to 2024.
• Realigned White Street and new White Street Extension from Willow Road to Spartanburg Highway, $33.8 million (right of way and construction); right of way delayed from 2020 to 2023; construction delayed from 2023 to 2026.
• South Main at Church and King streets to Spartanburg Highway, roundabout, replace bridge over Mud Creek, $4.63 million; right of way delayed from 2020 to 2023; construction delayed from 2023 to 2026.
• Highland Lake Road upgrade from Spartanburg Highway to Greenville Highway, $5.5 million (including $500,000 for right of way). Schedule unchanged. Funding source changed from Build NC bonds to regular DOT revenue.
• N.C. 280 from N.C. 191 to Old Haywood Road, access management and intersection improvements, $9.6 million (including $1 million in utilities and right of way), 2026 to beyond 2029.

Projects postponed beyond 2029 are essentially off the current state transportation plan and would have to be scheduled in the next adopted plan beyond 2030. 

The proposed deferment, which affect projects across the state, is scheduled to be reviewed by the state Board of Transportation in September and adopted in October as an amendment to the State Transportation Improvement Plan, or STIP. After that, the state board would send the amendments to regional MPOs for adoption, said Tristan Winkler, executive director of the French Broad MPO.
“When the state changes their STIP, the MPO then has to take up similar amendments,” he said. There may be some room for negotiation, he said, but only if the total amount of deferred spending stays the same.
“We can have a dialog about it and if there are things that are clearly a priority to the region that should be moved up (the MPO could request that) but others as a result would be further delayed,” Winkler said. “It’s a finite pie.We can’t just say move up $200 million worth of projects. In order to do that we have to delay $200 million.”
Winkler notified French Broad MPO board members of the news on Monday.
“I would say there is understanding of the financial situation but definitely disappointment that a lot of these planned projects are having to be pushed back,” he said.
Lapsley said he’s not sure whether the MPO will try to make changes to the proposed project delays.
“If the MPO doesn’t approve it, that presents an interesting dilemma,” he said. “I don’t have any heartburn with specific projects, I have heartburn with the whole thing. These are projects that started out in the county Transportation Advisory Committee, some of them more than five years ago. Six months or so ago I was telling the public and Transportation Advisory Committee folks we need to understand that from concept to construction is 8 to 10 years so by these delays we’ve effectively changed it from 8- to 10 years to 15-20 years. It’s crazy. The state has got to find a better way to keep up with these transportation projects. I understand delay is one way to deal with it but I think we’ve gotta keep up with it better than that.”