07/12/09 — Tommy's Road residents want road kept open

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Tommy's Road residents want road kept open

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 12, 2009 12:25 AM

People living in the Tommy's Road area are petitioning to keep their road open even though the state last month closed it to through traffic as work continues on the new U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass.

It might be too little, too late, but maybe the state will listen, Derek Speight said Wednesday afternoon as he watched heavy equipment spread mounds of dirt deposited by a procession of large dump trucks working on the road site.

He pointed out an area near the trucks and said that it once was occupied by the home of his great-grandmother.

Speight appeared before county commissioners at their Tuesday session to ask for their help, and the board agreed to forward his petition, signed by some 200 people, on to the state.

Speight said Tommy's Road is "vital" for county residents to "quickly access" schools and Wayne Memorial Hospital.

Commissioner Andy Anderson told Speight the county has no control over the project.

County Manager Lee Smith said some comments about changing the project had arisen before the work had begun.

"By changing the design at that time, it could possibly have stopped the project if we did it before it was bided out," he said.

The bypass will cross the road about seven-tenths of a mile east of U.S. 117 Business. It will dead-end at cul-de-sacs on either side of the bypass.

State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials have said the existing Tommy's Road at U.S. 117 Business would be relocated to serve homes on the north side of the proposed bypass. An access road off U.S. 117 Business to the south of U.S. 70 will be used to access the other segment of Tommy's Road.

Wendi Johnson, DOT Division 4 construction engineer, said in an earlier interview that two factors played into the decision to cut through Tommy's Road.

The first is its close proximity to the U.S. 70 and U.S. 117 Business interchange. Also, the bridge over the area of Tommy's Road would have to be so long as to be "fiscally impossible."

Speight said he understands that a bridge could cost $2 million. While that is expensive, it is not that much compared to the overall project cost, he said.

The total bypass project is expected to cost about $234 million and is being built in four phases, the first stretching from just west of Interstate 795 to just east of Wayne Memorial Drive. No other portions of the bypass have been funded.

Work started Sept. 29 on the first leg of the project, which will cost $65.3 million. Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro is doing the work. The completion date is November 2011.

As planned it eventually will span from N.C. 581 northwest of Goldsboro and to the existing U.S. 70 near LaGrange.

A Pikeville native, Speight has lived in his Princess Street home off Tommy's Road for about four years.

He said he decided to begin the petition drive after his wife told him she had been questioned about a potential petition drive.

"So I took it upon myself to get up the petition ,and I had a few other people working with me to finalize the wording on the petition," he said. "I just went out and starting walking to houses."

Speight said he has not spoken with anyone at the DOT.

He said he thinks the bypass is a great idea.

"It is a nightmare coming down (U.S.) 70 coming from Raleigh if you follow it to the beach. It is an absolute nightmare, so I think it is a great idea. This is the only part I am opposed to, just shutting down Tommy's Road."

The petition asks that the DOT "in some way, shape or form do a redesign of Tommy's Road," he said. "We are just in protest of the actual road itself being shut down. If they can come up with some other design that will give us access from (U.S.) 117 to Patetown Road from this area, that is what we are looking for, something to keep us from being shut off.

"Skeptics say they don't believe the petition will do any good, that the DOT has done what it is going to do. I just hope the DOT hears our voice and hears our concerns with this and offers some type of remediation."

Speight estimate about 30 people live nearby, but that the issue it is not so much about numbers as it is traffic and convenience.

"This is a very heavily traveled road," he said. "I don't know, the DOT might have, but I don't ever recall having seen any traffic counters on this road. Again, I have only been here four years and they have been planning it for many years, so it's very possible they had them before I moved over here.

"For me personally, going down Tommy's Road to Patetown Road is the way I go to Goldsboro and mainly almost all of the northwest quadrant of the county goes (that way). This is a very busy road. I heard one person on the road say they were kind of glad they were closing it because it was going to cut down on traffic. The traffic doesn't bother me on this road. It is a whole lot easier to turn left out of my street onto Tommy's Road than it is to turn left on (U.S.) 117.

"We are asking the state for access from here to Patetown Road. You have got Wayne Christian School on Patetown Road. You have access over to Wayne Country Day School from Patetown Road and it's just an important little area to me personally. I do understand the DOT is going to have access off (U.S.) 117 onto the bypass. We could take the bypass up to Wayne Memorial Drive, but again it bypasses Patetown Road. The best way to Patetown Road will be to go to Stoney Creek Road. It is a big hassle and it is out of the way.

"Most people have been very responsive (to the petition), very hopeful, very optimistic saying hopefully this will do some good. They are very adamant about their use of this road and very adamant about the number of people they know who use this road quiet frequently. Hopefully people will respond and see that others are fighting for this and maybe join in the fight and express their concerns to the DOT and hopefully the DOT will hear us."