NCDOT offers details to residents, businesses
Residents, business owners and town officials got a much-anticipated look at the expansion plans for Interstate 95 during an informal information session Thursday night.
The meeting was the second in the area within the last 30 days, residents of Falcon and Godwin were given a preview in October and followed the same format.
Maps, plans and information were available for those in attendance to see and discuss, not only among themselves, but with NCDOT personnel and its contracting partners.
“We have a proposed design they are here to comment on tonight,” said NCDOT Engineer Greg Burns. “As they provide us that feedback we’ll adjust the design as much as possible to accommodate their concerns.”
One of the key areas being addressed during the expansion are interchanges and bridges. In most cases, the bridges will have to be overhauled and redesigned to accommodate for the expansion. However, in the case of the bridge at Exit 81, plans could be slightly different.
Mr. Burns said because the current bridge is newer than most others along the corridor, changes to it may not be as radical.
New bridges slated to be constructed could be as high as 17 feet, well about the current 14.5 feet most now stand. Depending on the final design, residents could see only some modifications to the existing Exit 81 bridge.
“This bridge at Benson was actually replaced about 20 years ago,” Mr. Burns said. “It all depends on the ultimate outcome of the design as to whether it’s replaced or not.”
If it is deemed not necessary to replace the bridge, the design will incorporate the current bridge into the plans and roads and interchanges around it would be tailored to the bridge.
“If they don’t replace it, the designers will figure out a way to accommodate the existing bridge,” Mr. Burns said. “But depending on what kind of geometric configurations they want for the interchange, it may require it to be replaced.”
He added there might be a need for a temporary bridge to be constructed for traffic to flow around the construction temporarily.
“To make those improvements they may need a bridge built on a new location to accommodate traffic during construction,” he said. “There’s a number of things that have to be considered in the overall design. We’ll use the comments from Benson to help finalize the design.”
Long-time Benson businessman Paul Dunn, owner of Mule City Feeds, said the project is long overdue.
“We’ve got to do it, we don’t have any choice,” Mr. Dunn said. “The people who live along 95 are just going to have to shave a few feet off.”
Mr. Dunn, who was raised in the area of I-95 but doesn’t own property adjacent to the corridor, believes as a business owner it will certainly add to the town and more importantly to the supply lines.
“I bring in 25 tractor-trailer loads a week and I have customers who come in on the interstates,” he said. “So it’s what we need.”
While Mr. Dunn says it’s what’s needed at the present time, much like in the past when other highways were the norm, in time the need for a change to I-95 will eventually come about.
Here is a detailed map of Interstate 95, Exit 81 which was shown to residents and business owners of Benson during a meeting with NCDOT officials Thursday night at the Hampton Inn. The project calls for a widening of the interstate and upgrades to interchanges along a 29 mile stretch between Fayetteville and Interstate 40 in Johnston County.
“It’ll be the same thing again in 40 years unless we depopulate,” he said. “The issue is not now, we’ve got to look eight years down the road. Highway 301 between Dunn and Benson was I-95 in 1959, it was bumper-to-bumper. Diesel trucks, at 2 a.m. could people sleep? No. People didn’t have air conditioning, screens were the only things between them and the trucks. That was an improvement, now we go 50 years later and we’ve got to do it again.”
Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin attended the meeting and encouraged residents to make their voices heard on the project and offer the state input while there’s still time to do so.
“I was happy with the turnout and was glad to see several state and county officials, as well as residents, at the Hampton Inn Thursday night,” the mayor said. “This type of project is a major undertaking and Thursday’s meeting is a crucial component in shaping the direction of our area and its roadways.”
He also said town officials are relying on NCDOT to provide the expertise and give the interstate the makeover required to keep it vital to the east coast corridor.
“The board and staff are relying on the expertise of DOT engineers on this project,” Mayor Medlin said Friday morning. “Last night’s input meeting was an important one for the public. I did my best to make it around to everybody in the room and tell them — the most important thing you can do tonight is tell DOT what you think about this plan. If you like it — tell the DOT that. If you don’t like it or have other ideas, share that as well.”
NCDOT officials estimate the total cost of the project at just over $708 million and will involve some 600 land parcels along the proposed route.
Comments on the project are being accepted until Nov. 23 by NCDOT. Residents are asked to submit their thoughts to Scott Pridgen, P.O. Box 1150, Fayetteville, NC 28302 by mail, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 910-364-0603.
-Dunn Daily Record