Road projects on schedule for 2021

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The Town of Highlands recently completed a drainage improvement project along 4th Street near the intersection of Martha’s Lane.

A number of Highlands road maintenance projects are tentatively on schedule for the spring and summer of 2021, according to Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor.

Among the projects to be completed is a full milling and repaving of Main Street from Dillard Road to 5th Street. A second phase of that project would include milling and repaving of US 64 from Main Street to Buck Creek Road and a short section of NC 28 from Main Street to Shelby Circle.

“As many folks know, the NC Department of Transportation has had some pretty serious financial issues in the past fiscal year and overspent its budget,” Taylor said. “We didn’t know what that meant for the projects listed for Highlands, whether or not they would be moved back to 2022 or even later, but after meeting with NCDOT officials it was made clear that the Main Street repaving is still on the schedule for 2021. It will be a complete milling and repaving, not just a resurfacing.”

Taylor noted that the timing of the repaving projects would be dependent on when funds were released by the state to pay for the work. 

“Everything is dependent on when the money is available, but we are hopeful that the work can be completed in the spring of next year – March and April,” Taylor said. “Obviously, it’s easier to do major road projects before we get into the full swing of our tourism season. But the weather also plays a factor because in order to pave the temperature has to reach a certain threshold and it can’t be raining.”

Taylor added that the town is working with the NCDOT to potentially schedule an additional paving project that would cover Big Bear Pen Road from Chestnut Street to Upper Lake Road. Aside from paving, town officials are also in discussions with NCDOT engineers about how to improve the intersection of NC 28, Satulah Road and South Street, but those discussions are in the early stages and no actual work on that intersection is scheduled.

“That intersection is one we hear about all the time,” Taylor said. “It’s a headache for drivers, especially drivers who may not be familiar with it.”

The town took matters into its own hands and recently fixed one problematic area for motorists by improving the drainage along the roadway. A project to redirect runoff and improve the drainage along 4th Street near the intersection of Martha’s Lane was completed on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Whenever heavy rain would fall, water would accumulate along the side of 4th Street and in the winter that precipitation would freeze over and cause a driving hazard. The new drainage alleviates the problem and runoff no longer backs up to the roadway.

“The new drainage system has been working since the work was completed last Thursday,” commissioner Amy Patterson said. “We have certainly had enough rain over the past week to test it, and there haven’t been any issues.”