By MICAH HENRY
Bethlehem area residents and business owners flocked to an informational meeting on Tuesday evening, March 28, at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Mark Stafford, PE, North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 12 Engineer, was joined by DOT project engineers Cole Gurley and Bryan Sowell, as well as consultant Todd Buckner, design engineer with the firm Michael Baker International, and other project staff.
The church’s Family Life Center served as the display area for three large, double-sided project map panels, stretched on large frames for public viewing.
The existing NC 127 section from Cloninger Mill Road to Richey Road will be upgraded from its current 2 lanes or 2 lanes plus turn lane to a 4 lane divided highway with grass median in the middle and a 10 foot wide multi-use path on the west side, along with a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the east side.
Stafford said the timeline for the project is to begin acquiring right-of-way land in the second quarter of 2024, allowing about 18 months for that process. This will overlap with moving utilities which might need to be relocated, such as electric, water, sewer, and gas lines. In 2026, the project will be let to a suitable bidder.
Although the maps were split into three segments for better detail, the project will be let as a single bid, said Stafford.
A number of local people milled around the room, looking at the maps and asking questions or voicing concerns.
One business owner voiced concern that the divided highway would affect traffic to his store. He hoped the DOT would place a turning lane at his establishment so customers could turn there.
Project details and maps can be found on the NCDOT project webpage at https://PublicInput.com/nc127-catawba-alexander.
People may also submit comments by phone at 512-580-8850 (project code 1350), by email at nc127-catawba-alexander@PublicInput.com, or by mail at Verrol McLeary, NCDOT Project Management Unit, Project Manager – Divisions 11-14, 1582 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1582.