Commissioners received an update on the NC Hwy. 127 widening project at their January 6 meeting from Brian Horton, Transportation Planning Manager for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is planning right-of-way acquisition in 2021 with construction to begin in 2023 on the $30 million state project.
During Horton’s presentation, the main topic of discussion was the bicycle-pedestrian plan for the new four-lane road, which will run from Richey Road in Alexander County south to Cloninger Mill Road in Catawba County. Horton said the recently-adopted Bethlehem Community Plan included recommendations for improved connectivity and walkability. He then showed maps and drawings of concepts for the bicycle-pedestrian facilities.
Horton shared the NCDOT’s new “Complete Streets” policy, which now pays 100 percent of the cost of sidewalks and multi-use paths. The only expense to the local government would be ongoing maintenance.
“If the State of North Carolina will pay for these pedestrian-bicycle facilities, I’m all for it,” said Commission Chairman Ryan Mayberry. “We need to follow the Bethlehem Community Plan instead of us trying to piecemeal this together. This widening project is a major need in Bethlehem, and by adding the sidewalk and multi-use path it will be an amenity to be enjoyed by the community.”
While no formal action was taken, commissioners agreed on a 10-foot wide multi-use path on the west side of Hwy. 127 and a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the east side of Hwy. 127 for the southern portion of the widening project. Based on current plans, the multi-use path and sidewalk would begin at Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church and extend south, with the sidewalk ending at Chigger Ridge Road at the traffic signal and the multi-use path continuing onto the new southbound two-lane bridge that will be constructed.
Horton said the multi-use path would be asphalt and would allow for walking, running, and bicycling, while the sidewalk would be concrete for pedestrian traffic only.
The northern portion of the widening project was also discussed. Horton said there is an alignment option to bypass Bethlehem Elementary School with the new four-lane road, and keep the existing road for school traffic.
This alignment option and other bicycle-pedestrian options for the northern segment will be discussed at a community meeting tentatively set for spring 2020. Horton said there should be more detailed drawings available at the meeting, and DOT representatives will be on hand to answer questions and collect public input.