BY JOHN NAGY
Western Moore County motorists who frequently travel N.C. 211 through West End and Seven Lakes have recently begun seeing the first phase of widening the road.
When the project is complete sometime in 2028, the two-lane stretch from N.C. 73 to Holly Grove School Road will be a four lane divided highway, like it is between West End and Pinehurst.
Drivers and residents in West End and Seven Lakes have begun seeing in recent weeks the first phase of construction: the demolition and removal of trees. Contractors for the state Department of Transportation are clearing land in phases to make way for utility changes, such as relocation of power lines and water pipes.
Matthew Kitchen, a DOT engineer and a resident of Seven Lakes West, informally briefed fellow association property owners during a question-and-answer session March 28.
Kitchen said the state is spending $26 million to acquire the necessary land. Where property has been bought, crews are beginning to prep the land. In some cases, that has meant tree removal. In other cases, such as at the corner of N.C. 73 and 211, that has been the removal of a small strip of stores.
In recent weeks, contractors have removed trees in front of and near West End Elementary School, bringing into sharp relief how much closer the road will be to the school when done.
Kitchen said he has been meeting with school officials and assured about 50 residents at the March 28 information session that the school will still be safe and that, at a distance of about 80 feet, the school is not too close to the road.
Kitchen said the current 45 mph speed limit will remain on that stretch of road and that, with new curbs and gutters, safety may actually be improved near the school.
Construction is expected to cost the state $37 million and isn’t slated to begin until after the U.S. Open in June 2024. Kitchen said the DOT will begin the 211 widening and several other projects in southern Moore after the Open — and finish before the next Open in 2029 — so as not to inconvenience visitors.
Kitchen said motorists can expect the land clearing to continue most of this year. There has been some delay, he said, because the state has had a hard time finding contractors with the time to do the work.
When construction begins, the DOT will keep open two lanes of traffic most of the time, Kitchen said. The main gate into Seven Lakes West is expected to remain open, but the association’s board of directors is already planning to upgrade its back entrance, located off N.C. 73, in anticipation of increased traffic wanting to avoid construction delays. That upgrade is expected to take about three months to complete and cost approximately $350,000 to $400,000. That work would begin around the time 211 construction begins.
One concern voiced by residents is whether the tree that serves as the community’s annual Christmas tree, located at the corner of Seven Lakes Drive and 211, will remain. Kitchen said the tree is not in the way of the road but is “dead center” of where Duke Energy plans to relocate its power lines. It will be Duke’s call as to whether to remove the tree, but Kitchen warned residents that Duke does not like trees encroaching on power lines.
A more formal briefing session, with Seven Lakes North and Seven Lakes South residents, is being planned for later this fall, association president Josh Davis said. That session will give residents a chance to look at a series of maps pinpointing the work and ask more questions of transportation officials.