Locals upset about proposal to - FOX Carolina 21

Plans to expand WNC highway met with some push back from locals

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COLUMBUS, NC (FOX Carolina) -

The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced plans to widen Highway 108. NCDOT unveiled the plan last week, but some locals are rallying against the proposal. 

According to NCDOT, the proposal would widen a three mile stretch along Highway 108, from Highway 176 in Tryon to Hospital Drive in Columbus, GA.

NCDOT said the expansion would help with two problems: growth and driver safety.

"What we have found is that the traffic that’s already there is maximizing the road, so once you plan for growth in the future, the road won’t be able to handle it," NCDOT Communications Officer David Uchiyama explained.

Those who live and work in the area, however, have different views on the expansion. 

Last week we found out that the proposed widening of Highway 108 really is the addition of a new Highway 108 running alongside the old one," Dr. Joseph Picone said. "It’s going to take our entire parking lot, and as result, our entire building."

Dr. Picone said his practice, Foothills Wellness Center, could be forced to shut its doors if the proposal goes through.

"We really have no options to relocate. There’s three other physicians besides myself that are going to lose their practices. We don’t have other places to go. We’re a small rural community so we don’t have a surplus of doctors to take care of everybody," Dr. Picone said.

According to NCDOT, the plan is to widen the existing highway and add 12 turn lanes along the three-mile stretch. Dr. Picone, however, said the addition is not necessary.

"We may need a turn lane here and there, but they're aren’t that many places to turn and if you get rid of all the businesses there’s really no need for a turn lane because there’s nothing to turn into," Dr. Picone said. 

According to NCDOT, the current proposal would force 6 businesses and 4 residential homes to relocate.

"For those folks, as of now, with the plan as-is, they would go through a relocation process," David Uchiyama said.

Dr. Picone's practice is one of those businesses. 

"We have really no options to relocate. There are three other physicians besides myself that are going to lose their practices. We don’t have other places to go. We’re a small rural community so we don’t have a surplus of doctors to take care of everybody," Dr. Picone said.

A change.org petition, started earlier this week, has already gotten close to 1,000 signatures from locals upset about the plan. On Thursday night, those locals will have a chance to voice their opinions about the highway expansion. 

A community meeting will be held on May 3 at 6:00 p.m. in the parking lot of Foothills Wellness Center in Columbus.

NCDOT encourages citizens to submit comments and concerns by May 8. Comments can be submitted by email to Gail Kogut at gkogut@maec.com.

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