Growth, improvements on horizon
The Town Of Benson has a bright future ahead, according to Town Manager Matt Zapp, so there’s plenty for businesses and residents alike to anticipate with positive foresight.
Mr. Zapp offered those upbeat and excited predictions during Thursday’s Coffee Connections hosted by the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce.
Citing the recent installation of broadband in the downtown area, the soon-to-be completed Hampton Inn adjacent to Interstate 95, the new Benson Dog Park and proposed improvements by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Mr. Zapp painted a bright picture for the future of the Johnston County town.
“We have had $80 million of commercial or economic development in 36 months,” he said. “We have developed 225 new jobs within the city limits and we’ve embraced our friends just outside the city limits.”
During his presentation, Mr. Zapp emphasized several initiatives aimed at making downtown a much more efficient place from several standpoints. Included was a discussion of an upcoming parking study to begin the process of figuring out a way to alleviate the already tight — and at times difficult — parking situation.
Mr. Zapp challenged the audience to consider where would customers park and how would they be moved to and from their vehicles as well as from one business to the next.
“We’re going to try to figure out how to park, where to park and to get your customers to you,” he said. “If there’s alternate locations where we can secure property. When you talk five to 10 years out, what if we look more like Fuquay-Varina and less like current downtown Benson.”
Mr. Zapp highlighted the planned future of transportation which includes the installation of a traffic roundabout, for which Mr. Zapp said funding has already been secured and now it’s up to the state to move ahead.
The roundabout would be installed at the intersection of Wall and Main streets — or the N.C. 50 and U.S. 301 intersection — an intersection Mr. Zapp said sees over 15,300 cars in a 13-hour period. The total includes over 860 trucks each day.
The $750,000 cost for the project has been made possible through emergency transportation funding.
Preliminary discussions for the roundabout have included plans to make sure it can be crossed by both animals — mules — and larger vehicles. Plans call for the center to have a tapered slope.
“We’ll be able to go straight down Main Street with a tractor-trailer. If you’re moving a house, if you’re moving a mobile trailer,” he said. “If you’re moving anything, you’ll be able to get around the roundabout.”
Frequent questions regarding the delays expected because of the installation of a roundabout were also addressed by Mr. Zapp. He said cars can be expected to move through the location in about 11 seconds.
“Your opportunity to get through there should be quicker,” he said.
Additionally, Mr. Zapp indicated a comprehensive transportation study is on the horizon. A study that would result in town officials finding the best way to move all types of traffic through the downtown area with the least difficulties.
“We are trying very hard to work with DOT to put a second bridge in,” he said. “An overpass that would create opportunities on the east side for industrial expansion and relieve pressure of the semi-trucks. If anyone is familiar with where Cub Road or South Market Street intersect, those were designed to have a bridge put in.”
Mr. Zapp noted if DOT were to put in an additional overpass, local drivers would have an alternative crossing I-95 and would also encourage local businesses with major transportation logistics to be able to expand as well.
“If DOT were to put a nice overpass in prior to the widening of 95, it gives us all a secondary route in the event of a problem,” he said.
He also outlined the paving plans NCDOT has reported to town officials for the next two years. Plans include paving the Benson area from McGee’s Crossroads to downtown this year and continuing to U.S. 301, with the rest of the road heading toward the Meadow community the following year.
“You have DOT doing the first section of Main Street up to 301 in 2018,” he said. “They’ll be doing your downtown district in 2019.” Courtesy The Daily Record