By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on September 25, 2019
After a lengthy and, at times, contentious process that included protests and petitions by local residents, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is finishing the right-of-way acquisition phase, involving 132 parcels, of the $17.4 million Colington Rd. improvement project. First unveiled in 2105, the ambitious project has been subject to delay and may not be completed until 2022.
Aimed at addressing flooding and safety concerns along the winding, 4.3-mile-long corridor, the project includes re-surfacing, raising and straightening some stretches of the roadway. It will also incorporate a seven-foot-wide asphalt bike lane along the bulk of the state-owned highway that serves as the only vehicular access to thousands of homes, a number of neighborhoods and more than a dozen businesses.
“Due to funding issues, a number of [department] projects were delayed,” said NCDOT Division I Engineer Jerry Jennings speaking of the hold up. “It has actually allowed time for the right-of-way acquisition process to be completed.”
Jennings said the construction contract for the project would be put out for bid in June of 2020, however some utility work may occur prior to the start date. Construction, he told the Voice, would “likely begin in September, at least in earnest. We estimate about eighteen months construction time, but actual dates will be determined as we get closer to advertising the contract.”
And while some members of the community have supported the project, others are voicing concern about disruption during the construction phase as well as the project’s potential impact on traffic, business and the quality of life.
“It’s going to affect us tremendously,” said Tommy Beasley of Billy’s Seafood Market, a portion of whose parking lot the NCDOT has acquired as part of the right-of-way. “If [construction] happens in the summer, we will lose tons of money. It’s going to be a nightmare.”
Beasley also predicted that traffic during the construction phase is going to be problematic, a concern that he says has pushed a number of people he knows to move out of Colington Harbour in anticipation of that work.
“You know how many people live back here – it’s going to be a big old cluster,” Beasley said. “With this many people coming down this road…It’s going to be ugly, that’s all I can say.”
As for the direct impact on his business, Beasley said, “We’ve been paying taxes for fifty years and they come in and take part of my parking lot.” He added that the planned raising of the road by between 18 inches and two feet is going to turn the parking lot “into a soup bowl.”
Kristina Bridges, whose family owns Endurance Seafood Co. on Colington Road, said her family reached an agreement with NCDOT on its right-of-way acquisition on their parcel – which includes more than 80 feet on one side of the roadway, and 42 on the other.
“We ended up settling, but they haven’t paid us,” Bridges acknowledged. “I’ve called a couple times, but they just put you off.”