A new road that would traverse the campus of Southwestern Community College and provide a new link between two of Jackson County’s major roads is in the final planning stages.
The proposed two-lane road is designed to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow at the intersection of N.C. 107 and N.C. 116 and help transit to and from SCC, according to N.C. Department of Transportation project engineer Steve Williams. The congested intersection is flanked by an Ingles grocery store and a Lowe’s home improvement store.
According to NCDOT projections, daily traffic on N.C. 116 is expected to increase from 10,200 vehicles per day in 2008 to 19,100 vehicles per day by 2035, and traffic on N.C. 107 is expected to increase from 23,300 vehicles per day in 2008 to 51,100 vehicles per day by 2035.
Engineers have developed two options for the new road. Both follow the same route and include plans for a bridge over N.C. 107, but they differ in the style of intersection.
SCC President Cecil Groves said the new road was crucial for the college’s expansion.
“The road is essential to the future development of the college, particularly with regard to our ability to handle traffic patterns and expand the number of students,” Groves said.
Groves said the new road would give SCC an exit out of the back of the campus that would greatly enhance its ability to complete construction projects related to its expansion. It would also make the N.C. 116 entrance safer for faculty, students, and staff.
The 0.7-mile connector road would run along the edge of the SCC campus and connect N.C. 107 at Evans Road to N.C. 116 at Bonnie Lane.
The NCDOT will hold an information session to share designs for the new road from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, at the Balsam Center on the SCC campus.
The meeting will provide an informal venue for dialogue about the proposed road’s effect on the community.
According to Williams, the two scenarios mainly affect the intersection with N.C. 107.
The major components of the plan involve the construction of a roundabout on N.C. 116 –– close to the site of the Jackson County Schools bus garage –– that would serve in lieu of a stoplight at the intersection.
The new road would then cross a U.S. Forest Service property, traverse the SCC campus, and eventually intersect with N.C. 107 just over the hill from Smoky Mountain High School — after crossing 107 with an overhead bridge.
In one set of plans, the new road would have a second roundabout that would provide access to N.C. 107, while the other option traffic would access N.C. 107 directly from Evans Rd.
The new road would be built with a sidewalk and bike lane to accommodate pedestrian traffic and cyclists.
In order to move forward with the new road, NCDOT will need to purchase additional right of ways from landowners and undergo the necessary environmental assessments for the road project.