JONESVILLE — Construction on a N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) project planned to begin next month on U.S. 21 here has been put on hold.
Joe Laws, division project manager for the N.C. DOT office in North Wilkesboro, said the project to narrow the section of highway from N.C. 67 to the Swan Creek Bypass to two lanes while maintaining the turn lanes at the N.C. 67 and Main Street intersection was put on hold when the only bid submitted by the July 16 bid opening came in “57 percent over the engineers’ estimated cost.”
“We just don’t have that level of funding available to us at the moment,” he said. Even if they did, Laws said prices that exceed 10 percent of the estimated cost cannot be considered for award as per NCDOT policy.
The bid for $1,150,772.32 bid was submitted by Carl Rose and Sons, Inc. of Elkin.
“At this time,” Laws said, “we are studying alternatives in order to readvertise the project. There is no anticipated readvertisement of this project in the near future.”
Jamie Wood of the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) office in Yadkin County had notified Jonesville Town Manager Scott Buffkin in a June 22 email that the project was advertised for bids that month and that construction was projected to begin in August.
Wood had not been able to be reached for comments at the N.C. DOT office in Yadkin County Tuesday morning about the project prior to Laws’ call offering information from the Wilkesboro office. Buffkin was then informed of the change in plans.
In an earlier interview, Buffkin said he was pleased that plans were moving forward with the project. “I think it will be a great benefit,” he said, “and will improve the whole area there appearance-wise.
“Any time the state or any organization is making an investment to improve the infrastructure in our town, I just like to get the word out to show our pride and let them know how grateful we are that there is something positive going on in Jonesville to try to make our community the best it can be.”
The planned drainage structures should eliminate the problem of water draining over onto adjacent properties, Buffkin said, adding that one property owner near the northern end of the proposed project, in particular, has complained about drainage issues.
The existing turn lane in the middle will be eliminated with the project. “That will take some getting used to for the folks that travel through there,” he said, “but it’s not used that much, so it shouldn’t be a large adjustment for anyone.”
Buffkin said he and Wood had talked about the project a few months before he notified him in an email that the division office had reviewed and approved the proposal.
The section of N.C. 67 to be included in the project starts at the First Baptist Church of Jonesville on the eastern end and stops at The Wood Box on the western end.
While DOT officials proposed the project as part of its ongoing improvements, Buffkin said it coincided nicely with the pedestrian plan just completed by a steering committee of local citizens with a stake in developing pedestrian facilities. The plan calls for the addition of sidewalks along the N.C. 67 corridor to link the residential areas of town with the more commercial areas near Interstate I-77.
“We would like to make that a continuous walkway along Highway 67,” he said.
Buffkin said sidewalks scheduled to be replaced in the DOT project are some of the oldest in town. “As I understand it, the biggest part of the project will have sidewalks with curbing and guttering on both sides of the roadway,” he said, “but there are sections toward the more southern end that will only have sidewalks on one side because of physical characteristics such as banks that make it difficult to put sidewalks in.”
Development of the Jonesville pedestrian plan took about 16 months to complete. The Town Council appointed a steering committee, Buffkin said, including representatives of the town council, tourist development authority, planning board and a representative of the Yadkin Valley Senior Center.
“We tried to get widespread representation from several different groups in the community,” he said. Jesse Day, a professional coordinator with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council in Kernersville, worked with the group and had the document published.
The Jonesville Town Council approved the plan a few months ago and sent it on to the N.C. Department of Transportation for approval. “I just got the word last week that the DOT Board had approved it,” Buffkin said, “and it is official now.”
State DOT grant funds were used to pay 80 percent of the $28,000 cost of developing the plan, Buffkin said, and the town paid the remaining $4,000. “It was a very small investment monetarily from the town’s behalf,” he said.
Buffkin said Jonesville business owners were encouraged by the proposed pedestrian plan. The only concerns raised were from businesses near the old Hugh Chatham Bridge area who were worried that the sidewalks would take away their parking areas. “I think we were able to alleviate those concerns,” he said, “so I’d say overall the response from the community has been very, very positive.”
Word has gradually gotten out about the pedestrian plan. Buffkin said he has mentioned it to people who live near areas targeted for sidewalks when they come in the Jonesville Town Hall to pay bills or he sees them out in the community. “I think it will become much more well-known when you guys run this article,” he said.
Kathy Chaffin can be reached at 336-258-4058.