Public gets first peek at 301 plans

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It has been 16 years since James Haney joined a handful of other residents to brainstorm ideas to revitalize the U.S. 301 corridor.

On Wednesday, Haney and other residents spoke at a meeting about an $18 million project to improve a section of the historic highway.

“We were there at the beginning of this effort and I’m glad to see it to pass,” Haney said.

Michael Baker International associates were in Wilson in August to survey the section of U.S. 301 to be improved, from Black Creek Road to Lipscomb Road, and then on Wednesday, the maps created from that data were revealed to the community. Project consultants along with officials from the city and state were on hand to answer questions and receive feedback about the proposal that would include pedestrian facilities in the area along with improved stormwater systems.

“I think it is a great idea because those ditches in the 301 corridor have been overgrown since the ‘50s,” Haney said. “For them to be closed and sidewalks added is a big plus.”

Wilson Assistant Public Works Director Bill Bass said the Wednesday meeting was a chance to get input from the community about the proposed plan and make alterations before the project moves to the design phase.

“People are pumped and excited about it,” he said. “They’ve been positive about the increased mobility, the multi-use path and the sidewalks. Everybody is excited to see the progress.”

The national shift toward interstates led to the U.S. 301 corridor to be neglected, but in 2015, the city was awarded $10 million in a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to reinvest in the thoroughfare. In November, officials announced a $6.5 million allocation from the state that would enable the project to address a larger section of the infrastructure.

“This project will help provide connections to schools and businesses. It also will increase exercise and recreation with more people getting out and walking because of the sidewalks.” said William Kerr, senior planner for Michael Baker International. “It will improve the quality of life in Wilson.”

Bass said there are several more significant benchmarks that have to be done behind the scenes before construction can begin, likely in 2018.

“They — the citizens and the city of Wilson — have made a lot of progress,” said Kerr. “We’re all working together and doing our best to push this project over the goal line.”

For more information on the project, visit www.WilsonNC.org/TIGER.

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 265-7821