421 Bypass lags more than a year behind projections
Even if all goes exactly according to plan, the U.S. 421 Bypass around Sanford likely will be finished more than a year behind schedule.
The southern end has been open to traffic since last year, giving truck drivers and commuters a way to get around the traffic and lights on Horner Boulevard between Walmart in the south and the area near B.T. Bullock Elementary School in the north.
The bypass eventually will extend even further north, back to U.S. 421 in the Cumnock area. That stretch was supposed to be done last October, but a rainy spring and summer in 2013 pushed the end date back to April. April has come and gone, as have several more months, but the project still is dragging on.
Marty Tillman, the lead DOT engineer for Lee, Moore and Hoke counties, said there's almost no way the project will be done by October, a year after it was supposed to be finished, but that he thinks the road likely will be open sometime this fall. It must at least be done by Dec. 15, when the DOT stops paving roads due to the cold; otherwise the work would have to wait until next spring.
Tillman added that even after they connect the north end of the bypass, there will be some slight "shifts and moves" that motorists will have to deal with around the Cumnock area as contractors work to finish an interchange there. The project manager for Devere Construction, which is doing the work, did not return calls and messages seeking comment on the work.
Another upcoming project for local drivers to be aware of is work to put in a pair of roundabouts on Hawkins Avenue/U.S. 15-501 at the junction with U.S. 1. Multiple traffic accidents there led to the safety-focused project, Tillman said, although a start date for the project has not yet been finalized.
Sen. Ronald Rabin and Rep. David Lewis recently appropriated some state funds for work in the western Harnett area that abuts Lee County, to get rural roads in the rapidly growing area up to the minimum standard to be added to the state road system.
The improvements will go from Barbecue Church Road down Hickorydale Lane and Lucas And Tucker Lane, from Walker Road down Ernest Lane, and from N.C. 27 down Bond Lane. All three areas are off of N.C. 87 between Carolina Trace and the Carolina Lakes area off of Buffalo Lakes Road.
"Infrastructure is one of the keys to economic development. We have been working closely with Senate and House Transportation Committees to get these funds in place," Rabin said in a press release.
Downtown Pittsboro and areas to the east have been the target of studies for a long time, although no work is planned in the short run. One such project is a U.S. 15-501 Bypass that would let traffic skirt downtown and reduce congestion and accidents.
"The need for a bypass around Pittsboro was first identified over 36 years ago," The Department of Transportation states on its website without giving any idea when that bypass might actually be built. "Currently, north-south travel along U.S. 15-501 requires traffic to utilize the downtown traffic circle that surrounds the historic Chatham County Courthouse. ... It is anticipated that congestion will substantially increase as travel demand and growth continues in Chatham County."
The DOT has been working on a $31 million project to widen Highway 211 between Pinehurst and West End, installing more lights and signs along with more lanes.
The county's leadership also is working with the state on a comprehensive transportation plan to identify "needs for the county's highway, public transportation, rail, bicycle and pedestrian transportation modes," according to the DOT website, which added, "Moore County's last adopted, long-range highway plan dates back to 1990 and does not address the county's current growth and development."