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Local Businesses Hold Out Hope Highway 107 Won’t Expand In Jackson County

Lilly Knoepp
Local business owners and community members turned out at a pulic meeting this week to hear an update on Highway 107 expansion plans.

Plans to expand Highway 107 through Sylva have been in the works for more than 10 years.  As the decade comes to a close, some business owners still hope the expansion won’t happen.

 Carl Queen has lived in Sylva since the 1970s. 

“Traffic was so light in the 60s and early 70s that kids would actually play ball in the street,” says Queen, who attended this week’s public meeting on the road. 

Now almost 35,000 vehicles drive the corridor daily, according to North Carolina Department of Transportation estimates. That will grow to over 40,000 in the next 20 years. 

Credit Lilly Knoepp
Here are the most updated plans for the project. If you look closely, you can see Speedy's Pizza in the yellow zone. That's where the road will expand.

“You know traffic is just going to keep growing down there because Western is growing and people are building and moving in and it’s not going to get any better,” says Queen. 

Queen is a vocal opponent of the highway expansion. Jeannie Kelley is another.  She founded the “Say 'No' To The Road” organization. 

“We still hope - even at this point - that it won’t happen and we will get a bypass that’s what we need. Around the 107 corridor,” says Kelley. 

Kelley’s family owns the local pharmacy Kel-Save Drugs. The road will run through their current parking lot.

“They tell me they will negotiate with me so I’m hoping that’s true,” says Kelley.  

That’s where state engineer Danielle Schwanke comes in.  

“Absolutely if anyone wants to meet with us about their property, change a driveway. Anyone who would like more information,” says Schwanke. 

Right now the plans are 65 percent done. Since they aren’t finalized changes are still happening. Schwanke estimates right now that over 50 businesses will be impacted and at least 20 will have to move. 

Charlie Schmidt say the new road’s trajectory has moved in the last 6 months. Now there is a line right down the center of his restaurant. 

“I own Speedy’s Pizza. And now it seems like they are making a point to go right down the center of our building and obviously I am extremely unhappy about that,” says Schmidt.  

In the recent local election, the road was a top issue on the ballot. However, Schmidt explains: “I felt that they revoted on all of the same people that were pro-road.”  

Gayle Woody is a Jackson County Commissioner. She’s excited about the almost $100 million dollar project. 

So this is going to, in the long run, add to infrastructure of Jackson County and number one keep our citizens safe,” says Woody. 

Barring any delays, construction is expected to begin in February 2023.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.