RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation, in conjunction with third party consultant Florence & Hutcheson Inc., has completed a feasibility study of proposed improvements to alleviate traffic congestion on N.C. 107 between Sylva and Western Carolina University in Jackson County. The study was requested by local leaders, and more than 100 citizens voiced their opinions about improvements to include in the study during a public workshop held in November of 2010. The document is intended to provide the local community with enough information to make a decision when prioritizing desired improvements by providing details such as the scope, cost and impact of the proposed project.
As a primary priority, the study recommends $103.4 million of widening, intersection and Superstreet design improvements along U.S. 23 Business from just north of Hospital Road to N.C. 107, and N.C. 107 from the U.S. 23 Business intersection to a half-mile north of Old Cullowhee Road. The total length of this section is 4.1 miles. These recommended improvements are needed to prevent congestion from worsening over time. However, they are subdivided into small segments to provide opportunities for phased improvements based on funding availability and local priorities.
Improvements include limiting drivers’ access between the highway and adjacent properties and incorporating medians, driveways and traffic signals in the design to improve safety and allow traffic to flow more efficiently. For example, instead of turning left at intersections, drivers would be redirected to a median opening a short distance away and allowed to make a U-turn to continue in their desired direction. These improvements necessitate the relocation of 111 homes and businesses.
As a secondary priority, the study recommends $12.3 million in traditional widening improvements, such as intersection upgrades and the addition of turn lanes, to the 2.4-mile section of N.C. 107 from north of Old Cullowhee Road to a half-mile past Cullowhee Mountain Road. Traditional widening in this area is sufficient for improving traffic flow because congestion is not as pronounced. Additionally, they would result in the relocation of only one home or business.
Scenarios discounted in the study include spot improvements, which were eliminated due to high cost and number of relocations while not addressing traffic flow problems for the entire corridor. Roundabouts were also considered but not pursued in detail because high traffic volumes would prevent it from functioning properly.
Now that the feasibility study has been completed, local officials and the Southwestern Commission Rural Planning Organization will work with NCDOT to prioritize N.C. 107 improvements they wish to pursue.
To view the feasability study, visit www.ncdot.gov/projects/nc107connector/.