RED SPRINGS — A plan for a bypass around Red Springs that has been talked about since 1998 is now heading back to the starting gate.
Red Springs Mayor John McNeill told town commissioners earlier this week that the proposed project was on the top of the state Department of Transportation’s list of long-range projects to pursue in Robeson County three or four years ago. It no longer is on the list of future DOT projects.
“I was told it was taken off the list because all of the environmental studies expired and now have to be done again,” he said. “We now need to get back on the list.”
The commissioners moved quickly to ask DOT consider the proposed bypass in its next project prioritization cycle. McNeill isn’t optimistic the project will begin any time soon.
“I don’t think you are going to see anyone out there in the near future with shovels in their hands,” he said.
The bypass, as originally conceived, would form a loop that would allow trucks, particularly those that stink of livestock, to avoid driving through downtown Red Springs, the mayor said. Overall, it would reduce the volume of all types of vehicular traffic using Main Street.
The proposed bypass has been on and off of the DOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program since 1998, said Andrew Barksdale, a DOT spokesperson. The Program is a 10-year-plan for funding various road projects and other transportation-related projects, such as sidewalks and green-ways, across the state. Funding for the project would be available at one time and then not available, he said.
The project currently is not funded, Barksdale said. But projects in the State Transportation Improvement Program are updated and new projects added every two years.
“The plan for 2018 to 2027 was just finalized this week,” Barksdale said. “The next cycle of the program, at which time the Red Springs project could be added, is the 2020 to 2029 plan.”
Projects included in the 10-year plan are ranked on a combination of data-based information and local comments, he said.
“This has not been a high scoring project,” he said. “This project hasn’t competed well with other projects across the state.”
The DOT has completed a couple of major safety-related projects in Red Springs over the past few years, Barksdale said. One was a turning lane being added recently at the N.C. 211 and Old Lowery Road. The other was the widening of N.C. 211 to three lanes from Saratoga Street to the end of the business district on the east side of the town.
The timing for Red Springs officials to act on getting the bypass back in the DOT’s long-range plan is “perfect,” he said. The process for establishing projects for the 2020-29 plan is just beginning.
Each DOT division will be holding drop-in office hours for a week to provide members of the public a chance to participate in the process. Area residents wanting to offer suggestions and to hear about potential projects in Division 6, which includes Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett and Robeson counties, can stop by the Division 6 office at 558 Gillespie St. in Fayetteville from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 21 to Aug. 25.
Until Aug. 31 comments about the upcoming 10-year plan can be made to Division Planning Engineer David Keilson at 919-220-4600, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments also can be made on the N.C. DOT website.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.