08/14/09 — State: No change in Tommy's Road plans

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State: No change in Tommy's Road plans

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 14, 2009 1:51 PM

A petition drive to keep Tommy's Road open where it meets the new U.S. 70 Bypass appears to have hit a dead end.

Plans that have been in place for years call for the road to be severed by the bypass. The road was closed to through traffic at that point in June to permit work on the bypass to proceed.

But many area residents say they were not aware of the proposed change.

In July, Derek Speight, who lives just off the road, presented petitions to commissioners asking that the road be reopened. Commissioners agreed to forward his petition on to the state.

Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best on Thursday told members of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization that the state has advised the county to wait and see how the new bypass affects traffic patterns before taking up the issue.

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

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 117 to Patetown Road from this area, that is what we are looking for, something to keep us from being shut off.

"The petition asks us to reopen Tommy's Road and if we reopened it at all it would only be for a small amount of time because as soon as they can they are going to cut that road out of the swamp," Best said. "Right now they haven't cut it out because it's used it to haul the dirt in.

"What we have been advised, we have taken this up with the DOT, they think the new bypass will take a bunch of the traffic off Tommy's Road. What they would like for us to do is wait until the new road is open which is about a year to a year-and-a-half and see if that does happen. Then if it does not, we can go make a petition with DOT to bridge that swamp."

Best said he was told the decision was based more on environmental mitigation issues than any other reason, including costs.

Local officials apparently failed to notice that the highway plans called for Tommy's Road to be sliced in two when the project was first announced.

"Tommy's Road in the original plan of the new bypass is cut off, but if anybody knew how to read those maps evidently that portion was missed, the truth be known about it," Best said. "It was four or five years ago when they first started putting the final plans together that we recognized that Tommy's Road was going to be cut off.

"We went to Jim Trogden, who at the time had Ricky's (Greene) job (Division 4 Engineer) and Jim basically said, 'If you touch Tommy's Road today you will stop Highway 70 cold. You will stop the bypass because of the environment mitigation we have already been through.'

"So he said, 'Once you get it built, you might have a chance to get it reopened, but you would have to go and bridge that swamp and it would cost $4 million to $5 million.'"

"Quite frankly, by the time we ever knew it (the plan to cut the road) it was done," said MPO Chairman and Goldsboro Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck Allen.

"It was just a small section in there that it was missed," Best said. "Nobody's land was around it so nobody paid any attention to it."

Best noted that even if it had been decided to proceed with the petition request that it would take two years to go back and do the necessary environmental studies.

Barnhill Contracting Co. of Tarboro began work on the first section of the bypass on Sept. 29. The span runs from just west of I-795 near Salem Church Road to just east of Wayne Memorial Drive and will cost $65.3 million. The completion date is November 2011.

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