State transportation officials came to Kill Devil Hills last week to unveil a plan to spruce up the curvy 4.3-mile Colington Road, but some local business owners along the heavily travelled roadway aren’t so impressed by what they saw.
The $17.4 million proposal would include widening and realigning some sections, repaving others and creating a bike lane for the bulk of the two-lane road, which is easily considered one of Dare County’s busiest secondary thoroughfares.
Acquisition of right-of-ways is slated to begin in 2016, with construction kicking off in 2018. Raising the grades in key areas prone to flooding is also part of the proposal.
As planned, up to seven homes along the road could be demolished, with owners having to relocate, according to N.C. Department of Transportation Project Manager Joseph Qubain.
“That’s the worst case scenario,” he added, saying that the department is working with those residents during the final stages of the design.
Qubain says the project will correct two major public concerns — flooding and bicycle access.
But at least two people who own restaurants along Colington Road say what is being proposed isn’t the answer for their businesses or the island.
“We are not really thrilled about the state taking five feet of right-of-way on either side of the road,” said Randolph Sprinkle, owner of the Salt Box Café.
“We can’t afford five feet of parking, and neither can most businesses or residents on Colington Road. And I am really worried about Billy’s Seafood, which already has tight parking.”
The owners of Billy’s declined to comment on the proposal.
Sprinkle said his business will likely halt during construction. “It could be years of construction back here. We will go out of business and people may begin to starve back in the Harbour because they can’t get out,” he said, referencing the slow speed in which some NCDOT projects move.
On a more serious note, Sprinkle said he is against the plan. “This is going into people’s yards. Having better access to Colington is not a bad idea, but there may be a better way to do it.”
Improvements include resurfacing from the end of Colington Road to Colington Drive. No right-of-way will be acquired along this stretch, and the existing 9-foot travel lanes and 2-foot unpaved shoulders will be maintained.
From Colington Drive to Baum Bay Drive, the travel lanes will be widened to 11 feet and have 10-foot shoulders with seven feet of that being paved to accommodate bicycles. A total of 60 to 90 feet of right-of-way will have to be acquired along this stretch.
From Baum Bay Drive to just 900 feet east of Veterans Drive will only be resurfaced because of its proximity to the National Park Service land. Four-foot paved shoulders will be added along this portion.
Loretta Sanders, owner of Colington Pizza and longtime resident of Colington Island, said that the improvements are not what Colington Island needs. She said she is opposed to the amount of right-of-way that would be taken from property owners.
“Colington Island has been blessed with fantastic growth in recent years,” she said. In addition to longtime businesses like Billy’s and Bill’s Marina, she said, the island has such amenities a daycare center and the popular Salt Box, all of which will be affected by the easements and construction.
“What’s good for them is good for us and they are going to lose out over there,” she said. Sanders said that the bike lane also provides a false sense of safety on an already dangerous road.
“Do we really want to encourage tourists and families to bike down these lanes?” she asked. “I just don’t feel like it’s a safe idea. A lot of us who live here operate on muscle memory driving down this road, but there are a lot of blind corners and windy turns. Now are we going to have to worry about Trina on training wheels darting across a driveway, too?”
Last week’s public meeting was the second in Dare County to gather public input, the last one being in 2011. Qubain said a draft of the final proposal was completed this week and will be available to the public after it receives necessary approvals.
Funding for the project has already been allocated, with 80 percent federal money and the remainder coming from the state.
source: Michelle Wagner, Outer Banks Voice