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Crews are expected to finish the U.S. 301 redevelopment project this spring, roughly two years after the road detours started.
“I think it has been a great project,” said Bill Bass, Wilson public works director, estimating about 95% of the project is complete. “The weather delays have extended the lane closures, but everybody seems to be very patient, and I think it will be worthwhile. It will all pay off when we finish.”
In 2015, Wilson was awarded $10 million through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, which was paired with $6 million from the N.C. Department of Transportation and about $2 million from the city. Construction has included improved stormwater systems from Black Creek Road to Lipscomb Road as well as raised medians, sidewalks and crosswalks.
“What they are doing currently is filling in the gaps in the sidewalks and repairing broken curb and gutter and sidewalks,” Bass said. “Probably in March or April, when the weather gets better, they’ll use a milling machine to get the grade of the road correct, and they’ll put the final layer of surface down.
“If all the repairs are made prior to the final milling and resurface work, they may find opportunities to remove closures.”
Originally the project was slated to be finished by now, but the N.C. Department of Transportation granted an 180-day extension to all projects across the state because of wet weather in 2018.
“For the sidewalks on Herring (Avenue), we still have some work to do in some places with the traffic signals,” Bass said. “We also have some intersection improvements at Sallie B. Howard and on the north side of Herring.”
Safety and improving mobility throughout the area is a cornerstone of the project, but Bass said the effect won’t be evident until all the work is complete.
“If there have been any comments about the project, it is about being ready for it to be done,” he said. “But they are excited about all the improvements, more so about the sidewalks than anything else from what I’ve heard.”
Rodger Lentz, Wilson chief planning and development officer, said the project has spurred new businesses, such as the city’s second Wendy’s location and the relocation of Public Tire Warehouse, as well as other investment.
“We have seen more inquiries and a fair bit of activity in the residential area where developers have purchased former vacant or less-than-appealing residential properties and have rehabbed them,” Lentz said.
Officials have held meetings for residents in the area in hopes of determining what types of businesses would do well near the redeveloped thoroughfare. Lentz said a grocery store and a bank have risen to the top of the list, but that’s dependent on private developers.
“The feeling is that with an improved roadway and improved aesthetics, more development can be attracted,” he said. “That is why the city embarked on the economic revitalization plan for the highway to develop strategies and next steps to continue the momentum of the TIGER investment.”
The plan will be presented to the Wilson City Council for approval this spring. Also, a beautification grant program is set to launch in the corridor in the coming months.
“We stand ready to assist developers and are actively promoting the corridor to business interests,” Lentz said.