YADKINVILLE — After several months of frustration, county commissioners were finally able to express their concerns directly with the state’s Secretary of Transportation and talk about projects they hoped to see happen for Yadkin County.
Secretary Anthony Tata, accompanied by seven staff members with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, met with the commissioners last week and listened attentively to a presentation by Chairman Kevin Austin, detailing several DOT projects the commissioners have asked to be placed on the planning maps for the county.
The meeting was a result of a resolution the commissioners adopted last month to request a scheduled time to discuss DOT projects for the county.
Austin welcomed Tata and his staff and thanked them for “being receptive to talking about the needs in Yadkin County.”
Austin explained to the group, which included Jeff Palermo of the DOT Board; Mike Pettyjohn, division engineer; Mike Holder, chief engineer; Susan Pullium, director of strategic planning; and several other DOT staffers, why they were asking for help.
“Yadkin County, for years and years, has kind of been left behind,” Austin said. “If you look at our county and the transportation maps you can see we’ve suffered through the years. We’re a little bit lost in time here. There’s some sad jokes that go around about how Yadkin refused the railroad 150 years ago, so we’re stuck in the past. When Governor McCrory was elected and put such emphasis on transportation and its part in economic development, we got very excited. We saw this as an opportunity for us to maybe move Yadkin County into the 21st century,” Austin said.
The Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) maps are updated every four years and Austin said it was important to the commissioners that several additions be included on the Yadkin County CTP maps, however the process to give local input for the maps had been “a little bit frustrating.” Austin said that he and the commissioners wanted to learn what they needed to do to “get the things that Yadkin County needs” and to “bring this county into the present.”
Following a brief video presentation showcasing Yadkin County, Austin shared several maps and indicated transportation needs for the county, including several new interchanges that would decrease congestion in some highly trafficked areas and aid in interstate access for local industries.
A new bridge connecting Yadkin and Surry counties between Jonesville and Elkin, particularly one that would create easier access to Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital was another project Austin shared in detail with the DOT representatives. Austin also indicated the need for a rail line in Yadkin County as many local industries, particularly the grain industry, could greatly benefit from this and other groups seeking to establish themselves in the area often ask about access to rail.
Following the presentation, Tata responded saying that they had been “surprised by the resolution” and input from the commissioners that their needs were not listened to by DOT.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is reaching out and trying to be good listeners,” he said. “There is certainly no resistance on our part to listening and incorporating local input into planing.” Tata went on to say that the intent of Governor McCrory’s new strategic mobility formula was to have “significant local input.”
“We want to be good partners in development of the future of Yadkin County,” Tata said.
He also explained that the degree of local input would vary based on the type of project being requested. While Tata did not comment on the specific projects Austin presented, he did note that putting in a rail line would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” and that money was “running short across the board” at this time.
Following the meeting, Austin said he was encouraged and excited about the response from Tata and his staff.
“We were just extremely pleased that Secretary Tata was able to come to Yadkin and talk with us about Yadkin’s needs for the future,” he said. “It really shows that he’s listening and wanting the NCDOT to be the best it can be.”
County officials were unsure of when the next draft or final version of the CTP maps for the county would be completed, but they were hopeful that some of the requested projects would now be included on the future planning maps for the area.
Kitsey E. Burns can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.