Work on U.S. 301 to start this week

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After more than two years of behind-the-scenes work, redevelopment of the U.S. 301 corridor will break ground on Tuesday.

“When we first got the TIGER grant, people thought we’d just start construction, but there is a lot of work between that point and now,” said Bill Bass, assistant public works director for the city of Wilson. “In terms of getting the grant in November of 2015 and where we are today, it has been extremely accelerated. To submit the design in September, let the project for bids in December and start construction in April is unheard of.”

To celebrate the occasion, the community is invited to a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Lee Campus of Wilson Community College, 4815 Ward Blvd. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, Mayor Bruce Rose and Gus H. Tulloss, a state transportation board member representing Wilson County, will be the keynote speakers marking the occasion.

S.T. Wooten, a Wilson-based construction firm, will survey the project next week and water and sewer replacement is expected to start the week of April 9.

“We don’t have a timeline on that because we don’t know what we’ll find when we start digging,” Bass said. “Once that is replaced, we’ll start with the storm drains, curb and gutter, then sidewalks will come in sometime around September.”

Crews will be working on replacing the roadway simultaneously with the improved infrastructure. Some detours are inevitable as construction is underway but Bass said crews also plan to work overnight when traffic is reduced to alleviate inconveniences.

The $18 million project will add raised medians, sidewalks and crosswalks along with improved stormwater systems from Black Creek Road to Lipscomb Road. Wilson was awarded $10 million through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant while $6 million is being funded by the N.C. Department of Transportation and the city is picking up the rest.

“U.S. 301 was designed and built to carry traffic volumes north and south, but 95 has basically taken that role now, so the road doesn’t function in the capacity it was built for,” Bass said. “The setting is more urban and the uses are different, so we tried to develop a project that would fit the community around the roadway.”

Wilson Chief Planning and Development Officer Rodger Lentz said word of the transformation has spurred an increase in interest among businesses and developers.

“I think the TIGER project along with the development of the Lee Campus by the community college is giving people more confidence in the corridor, especially at the intersection of Lipscomb and 301,” Lentz said. “We’re seeing quite a bit of interest in what can be done and what is available. Interest is definitely rising.”

Lentz recognized the group effort between all levels of government and the private sector to revitalize the thoroughfare.

“This has been a tremendous effort on the part of a lot of different people,” he said. “It should be a point of pride for all of Wilson.”

Construction is expected to take more than a year, but the contract with S.T. Wooten stipulates work is completed by Jan. 11, 2020. For more information, visit www.wilsonnc.org/tiger/.