Representatives of Macon County’s planning department and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) met with residents of Clarks Chapel on Feb. 13, to discuss a new roundabout that will be built at the juncture of Dowdle Mountain Rd and US 441. The project, which also includes a new left turning lane on US 64/441, seeks to improve traffic congestion and traffic flow in the area, before the new Wal-Mart Supercenter opens its doors later this year. The Clarks Chapel Community Club hosted the event.
Matt Mason, supervisor of environmental services with Macon County’s planning department, assisted NCDOT engineers with answering citizen inquiries at the Clarks Chapel community center. The majority of questions from Clarks Chapel residents dealt with the new roundabout, specifically how the improvement will effect and improve traffic in the location. The project will be similar to the roundabout at Western Carolina University’s campus entrance.
The roundabout and turning lane are being completed in conjunction with the Siler Road Extension project. DOT engineers and contractors are building a new two-lane route from Siler Road to Wiley Brown Road, south of US 441 in Franklin. The goal is to provide another access point to Southwestern Community College and the Macon County library. Workers are expecting to complete the project before the new school year begins in August.
The DOT resident engineer in charge of the project, Mitchell Bishop, says the contractor will finish up all of the construction work no later than December 2012. Bishop told residents that he expects the work to be completed much sooner. C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc received the bid. The contract amount for the project is $6,785,129, not counting additions that have arose since the project’s inception. For example, the initial contract for the project was doled out before the NCDOT was aware of the new Wal-Mart Supercenter coming to Franklin, said Bishop. Therefore, changes had to be made in order to adapt accordingly and improve traffic flow. The intersection is sure to see even more traffic with the new shopping center opening up.
Bishop told residents that the contractor would probably begin the project this spring, and possibly this summer, while school is out of session. The same logic applies to the roundabout construction. The new roundabout is set to be completed before the new school year begins in August. Bishop told residents that they would like to build the roundabout in June and July, without using a detour to redirect traffic. NCDOT officials believe the new roundabout will be more appropriate than a traffic signal, because it will keep traffic continuously flowing. Bishop believes another traffic signal at Dowdle Mountain Station would back up traffic into the four lane of US 441.
Work began in early February and is set to be complete by Dec. 31, although DOT officials believe the finished product will be complete before 2013, depending on weather conditions.