By MAGGIE BEAMGUARD, SLI Editor
The widening of a seven-mile stretch of N.C. 211 from West End through greater Seven Lakes has been a topic of public discourse since at least 2017, when the N.C. Department of Transportation invited local feedback on the proposed path.
Originally projected for completion in 2024 before the return of the U.S. Open to Pinehurst, the schedule has since been revised based on several different factors. Completion is now expected by 2028, a year before the USGA re-stages back-to-back U.S. Open and Women’s Opens in Pinehurst.
In August 2019, DOT officials judged that ongoing right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation was going to need about 14 months to complete, meaning a June 2020 date for bidding out construction wasn’t attainable.
The decision to push the schedule back was also influenced by financial shortfalls within DOT, as well as property settlement payments that had to get paid out.
“With the project anticipating a three-year timeframe once under construction, it was determined that it would be best to shift the project to 2024, as 211 is a major route for parking and busing for the U.S. Open,” said NCDOT District Engineer Matthew Kitchen.
While it will now be six years before the 211 widening is complete, DOT is making progress as right-of-way acquisition continues. It won’t be long before drivers will start to notice changes along the 211 corridor.
“We expect clearing and grubbing and erosion control to begin this fall to make way for power and communication utility relocation, which is expected to be complete ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open,” said Kitchen. Fred Smith Co. was awarded the clearing and grubbing contract.
The heavy work of road construction will have to wait until after the U.S. Open. DOT officials long ago, working with state and local Moore County leaders, decided not to have significant road work underway during the Open, which typically brings tens of thousands of visitors to local roadways.
The current schedule shows the project being put out to bid in September 2024.
“If that date holds, the contract could be awarded by October with work commencing thereafter,” Kitchen said.
If all goes as planned, the projected date of completion of the four-lane highway is fall 2028. Widening is scheduled to extend as far west as Holly Grove School Road, west of the McLendon Hills community.
Kitchen acknowledges factors such as weather delays and material availability could affect the completion date.
The project has already begun changing the landscape. Several long-time businesses have begun to relocate to make way for the extra lanes.
DOT aims to curtail the inevitable impacts on drivers and property and business owners as much as possible.
“The roadway widening project was designed to minimize impacts to all businesses as little as possible,” said Kitchen. “Obviously, with a project of this nature and physical constraints such as the railroad, widening could only occur toward some of the businesses along the NC 211 frontage.”
Some property owners experienced minimal impact. But the roadway footprint, drainage and utility installations resulted in property acquisition for others.
“In some cases, the impact may have been on the septic field only, which resulted in having to acquire the property even though the building would have had no other impact.”
While driving through the area during these construction years might prove challenging, DOT will work around traffic flow.
“Work will be performed so that there is minimal disruption to traffic,” said Kitchen. “There may be isolated instances where one-lane traffic may be required, but will likely be scheduled during off-peak hours. However, the majority of construction will occur with both lanes of traffic in operation.”
Property access will be preserved, he said. “Driveways to businesses and homes will be maintained throughout the life of the construction project.”
Once the orange construction barrels and cones are removed, locals will have to get used to new traffic flow through the community.
“While we will still maintain N.C. 211 access to all existing businesses, once completed the existing full access connections will be limited to right-in and right-outs with appropriately spaced U-turn bulbs for all user access,” said Kitchen.
In other words, he said, drivers won’t be able to turn left out of McDonald’s, among other businesses. “Motorists wishing to turn left from McDonald’s will have to turn right and travel approximately a third of a mile to the proposed U-turn bulb.”
The inconvenience of the construction will ultimately pay off for drivers, improving safety and mobility along 211.
“Post project, we anticipate the overall impact will be positive in the sense of a safer and more efficient roadway for travel,” said Kitchen. “Drainage improvements along Seven Lakes Drive adjacent to N.C. 211 will improve as well.”
Contact Maggie Beamguard at firstname.lastname@example.org.