North Carolina Department of Transportation officials are proposing to widen lanes, create a paved shoulder, and add some intersections for left hand turns along N.C. 107 beginning at Old Cullowhee Road to N.C. 281.
Transportation officials say improvements for this section of N.C. 107 are for safety reasons.
“We need to make it all around safer,” said John Conforti, DOT western group leader.
Project Planning Engineer April Johnson said this portion of the road has a high accident rate. According to a DOT report there have been 83 crashes over the last four years.
Widening the roadway by a few feet will make the roadway much safer, Conforti said.
According to DOT, this section of N.C 107 has only 10 feet of space from the centerline to the edge of the road. Officials say widening the lanes to 12 feet in some areas creates a safer environment for drivers, Conforti said.
Other proposed improvements — like creating a shoulder along the road — will increase safety.
“In some places there is no shoulder on the road,” he said.
Jackson County resident Gladys Cauley was one of the many people to state their concerns with the project. Cauley supports DOT efforts to widen the road. She lives in East Laporte and travels on the highway daily.
“There are some areas I definitely think they need to widen,” she said.
Josh Whitmore, Western Carolina University bicycle coach, says he uses this road for training. He suggested that a bike lane be installed along the road.
Whitmore calls this section of the roadway “the gauntlet” because of the sharp turns and high volume of traffic.
He says this road used to be adequate for the amount of traffic that traveled on it, but with ongoing development occurring in Cashiers it has a higher volume of vehicles.
Property owner June Smith wants to see the roadway widened and a bike lane installed.
“We need it bad,” Smith said. “It’s too narrow for an automobile.”
Smith lives off of N.C. 281 and drives on N.C. 107 daily.
Transportation officials will use public input to create a preliminary design. Officials say if the project stays on schedule, construction will begin in 2012. The total estimated cost for the project is $25,638,000.
— By Jennifer Garlesky