Bids start in September for TIGER grant projects

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Wilsonians got an opportunity Wednesday to see the future of U.S. 301 from the ground up.

“So far everything we’ve heard (from residents) has been very positive,” said Bill Bass, assistant public works director for Wilson. “People are excited to see some progress, the final plans and to get some information about when construction can begin.”

There have been several prior meetings to get feedback on the $18 million project to improve the thoroughfare from Black Creek Road to Lipscomb Road. Bass said bids will be accepted started in September, and in early 2018 construction should begin on the project that includes raised medians, sidewalks and crosswalks along with improved stormwater systems in the area.

“I’m excited because of what it will do for Wilson, especially east Wilson,” Councilman A.P. Coleman said at the public meeting.

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 historic highway. 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.

Wilson Chief Planning and Development Officer Rodger Lentz said he’s had an uptick in inquiries — new construction and redevelopment — about development along U.S. 301 since the project was announced.

“I think it is this road project as well as the community college project at the old Lee Motor Co. that has helped to create additional confidence in development along this section of 301,” he said. “These developments along with others in Wilson, like the rebuilding of the McDonald’s, all help to create confidence that this is a good place for business.”

Officials said the contractors would determine the construction timeline along with potential traffic delays.

“With any road construction project, there will be inconvenience, but I do think the end project will be worth it,” Lentz said.

With sidewalks and bike paths incorporated into the project, officials said they anticipate residents will appreciate the increased accessibility to businesses and schools.

“Instead of 301 being a barrier like it is for moving around, it should be much safer,” he said. “I think this project should really enhance the quality of life for people near this section of 301.”

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

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 265-7821