Business owners balk at design for Rocky Mount road widening
Posted August 27, 2010 2:10 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2010 6:24 p.m. EDT
Rocky Mount, N.C. — Rocky Mount business owners and elected leaders say that a plan to widen Winstead Avenue will harm the city's already fragile economy.
A state Department of Transportation-approved design would turn Winstead Avenue into six-lane, divided highway from Sunset Avenue to Hunter Hill Road, just north of U.S. Highway 64.
"We're not at all opposed to the widening of the road," said John Barker, president and chief executive of Providence Bank.
However, explained Barker, the proposed design will make it hard for customers to get in and out of businesses along Winstead Avenue.
DOT's plan for the $17 million project does not include a turn lane.
That means that getting to Providence Bank on Winstead Avenue would involve driving past the bank and making a U-turn at a traffic light.
More than 20 business owners enlisted state Sen. A.B. Swindell's help to push for a different design.
"If we go further in trying to block things so people can't get in and out of businesses, we're not doing a service to our businesspeople, nor the citizens who have to run this road," Swindell said.
Some business owners are pushing for a smaller, five-lane road with a center turn lane. DOT officials, though, said that design would more dangerous than a divided highway.
Construction isn't scheduled to start until June 2011 and will last a year. Business owners said it's not too late for the DOT to redesign the road.
However, DOT division engineer Bobby Lewis said the design is a done deal.
"I think what we have designed is the best option," Lewis said.
With double-digit unemployment – 12 percent in Nash County and 15 percent in Edgecombe County – Barker said the state shouldn't do something that will hurt the local economy.
"We need to fight for the businesses in Rocky Mount and get us back to full employment in the area," Barker said.