The State Department of Transportation is re-evaluating a controversial road project in Haywood County after criticism from residents and municipalities.
When a bridge replacement project on the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway was released a few weeks ago, it immediately generated concern across Haywood County.
“This interchange is truly in the heart of the county and impacts the entire county,” said Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.
Lake J, as it’s known to locals, sits in the center of the county, as does the bridge work projected to take more than three years.
The towns of Canton, Clyde and Waynesville passed resolutions asking DOT to speed up the timeline, with Maggie Valley and the county expected to join. Project Engineer Garrett Higdon said those concerns sent DOT back to the drawing board.
“We met with our designers – once again, everything is still in the preliminary planning phases, but they are fairly confident now that through the construction phasing of the project that we are gonna be able to get it down somewhere between six to nine months,” Higdon said.
State Representative Mark Pless, who’s watched the project closely, says he’ll continue to watch for public safety issues.
“A large portion of this is going to revolve around the fire service, because of where the fire departments are located and where their response areas are located,” said Pless. “It’s going to cause an issue because they cover areas that can only be accessed from U.S. 19. Ultimately, it’s their responsibility because they’re charged with covering that area, but we just gotta get the information to them so they can plan.”
A public meeting about the project, which can be found on the NCDOT website, will be held sometime in August.