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Smart Roads calls on county to step up in 107 planning

A member of the Jackson County Smart Roads group told county commissioners on Monday (Jan. 5) that there needs to be more planning when it comes to the proposed N.C. 107 connector, a.k.a. Southern Loop.

The proposed road would connect N.C. 107 with U.S. 23/74 to relieve congestion on N.C. 107.

The Smart Roads representative, Jeanette Evans, said it is up to the county to develop a vision for future growth and development, particularly along the county’s primary commercial artery. She suggested that now is a good time for the county to launch a plan for N.C. 107 since the N.C. Department of Transportation is footing the bill to come up with solutions to congestion, whether it’s building a by-pass or improving the existing roadway.

It may be a good idea to develop an individual plan for N.C. 107 similar to what has been done on the 441 corridor, Evans said.

Evans, who is the Smart Roads representative on the Jackson County Transportation Task Force, said whatever is done to N.C. 107 will have a permanent affect on the county. The transportation task force is just in the “modeling stage” of determining how growth will affect N.C 107.

The fear is that the Southern Loop would destroy mountain landscapes.

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County Commissioner Joe Cowan said N.C. 107 has been discussed for 10 years and has been “talked to death.” Cowan said Smart Roads has not developed one plan that addresses traffic concerns on N.C. 107. He said Smart Roads is “stagnant.”

But Susan Leveille, who is also a member of Smart Roads, said it is not her organization’s fault that progress has been slow. She laid the blame on DOT.

Cowan said DOT is not going to “decimate” a scenic area but said a bypass needs to be built to provide motorists with some relief.

Evans said Smart Roads is in place to advocate the community’s input on the road.

County Commissioner Tom Massie said there is already a county land use plan in place that addresses protecting scenic and cultural resources. Massie noted that the land use plan should be used in planning for N.C. 107 since the plan was developed with input form the public.

Massie suggested that the county planner and DOT planner communicate more about the county’s land use plan.

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