|Road Ahead: Four Years of Detours|
|Written by Steve Frank|
|Tuesday, 20 December 2011 07:24|
It’s a short distance, but it’s all that’s left to complete in a plan hatched 30 years ago by then Governor Jim Hunt—to have four-lane corridors east and west through the state. The western leg would see US 421 four-laned from I-40 to meet with US 321 in Boone. Now, the N.C. Department of Transportation has awarded a $66.4 million contract to widen the last four miles of U.S. 321
near and through Blowing Rock and complete that vision.
The contract was awarded to Taylor & Murphy Construction Co. Inc. of Asheville. Work can begin as early as Jan. 2, 2012 and is scheduled for completion by Oct. 1, 2015. It starts as the finishing touches are being put on the last US 421 stretch through Boone, to be completed early next year. Most of us know what we face in the short-term—that we’ll be going around and through a steep, curvy construction zone for four years in what would appear to be the most challenging sections of the project. And again, 321 can be closed for blasting and rock clearing Tuesdays and Thursdays, this time from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The contractor can close traffic from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. The project will be divided into two areas, with Area I the more commercial area north of the U.S. 321 Business intersection toward Boone. Area II is the more curvy, steep stretch south of the U.S. 321 Business intersection toward Lenoir. The contractor can work in both areas during the project, but is required to open all lanes to traffic in Area I first.
The entire project involves widening 321 from two to four lanes from Blackberry Road south of Blowing Rock to the Shoppes on the Parkway shopping center near U.S. 221. Work include additional through lanes, turning lanes and new lighting at selected sites, new retainer walls and increased sight distances by straightening curves.
When closure occurs in the work, detours will include:
• Area I: U.S. 321 Business through Blowing Rock to U.S. 221;
• Area II: N.C. 18 to Wilkesboro to U.S. 421 North to Boone to U.S. 321 to Blowing Rock.
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