ALBEMARLE — In a unanimous vote, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners recently passed support for the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s plan to renovate the intersection of N.C. Highway 205 and Big Lick/Liberty Hill Church Road in Oakboro.
With a target date set for this upcoming spring, the NCDOT is slated to change the intersection — currently a two-way stop — into a four-way stop before transitioning it into a future roundabout in late 2025 or early 2026, according to Travis Preslar from the NCDOT District 10 office in Albemarle.
Preslar gave a presentation at the commissioners’ Jan. 17 meeting, highlighting his department’s goal to confront congestion issues and accidents at the intersection by revising the traffic pattern.
Because there are no left turn lanes on N.C. 205, traffic turning left queues up traffic behind it while side streets must wait for gaps in mainline traffic; there have been 15 crashes at that location — including seven angles, three left-turn, and one head-on crash — between the dates of Nov. 1, 2015, and Oct. 31, 2020.
Prior to the board’s vote of approval, the town of Oakboro had supported both phases of this project via resolution.
Commissioner Bill Lawhon asked Preslar if the NCDOT had engaged in discussions with the property owners who will be affected by the changes.
“I’m not aware of any specific discussions yet,” Preslar replied. “We do engage in various levels of public involvement when we do just about any project. We know that the gas station (Oakboro Express, located at 1533 N. Main St.) has some future work they want to do. And we’re in coordination with them to some extent, and we’ll continue that as well as approach other property owners in the project limits.”
Lawhon inquired again about the NCDOT’s role in the project, noting that the department had not always presented resolutions to the board before taking actions — a four-way stop was controversially installed at N.C. Hwy. 73 and Millingport Road in June 2022.
“If this is the level of involvement you guys would like, then we would really like to provide that,” Preslar said. “We want to involve everybody we can in our projects. Our projects are not secrets. We want people to provide input. We want people to support our projects because we’re here to deliver safety and efficiency improvements in our transportation system, and we can’t do that without everybody involved.”
Commissioner Brandon King followed up with his view that the NCDOT didn’t seek enough local support before enacting the intersection change in Millingport and then “tried to throw it back on the commissioners to a certain degree.”
Commissioner Peter Asciutto, a member of the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization board, disagreed with King’s opinion, stating that the NCDOT has taken local input into consideration both currently and in the past.
“I don’t think a roundabout was originally planned,” Ascuitto said of the new project in Oakboro. “It might have been just a four-way stop, but now they’re adding a roundabout, so they take feedback. I think a lot of it has to do with the new trucks and traffic coming through with what’s going on. Charlotte Pipe coming out there is going to have an impact on the traffic patterns out there….The NCDOT does listen to people, so I don’t want them to be thrown out of the bus because I’ve seen them make adjustments when they get feedback from people.”
Despite questions and concerns, the resolution was passed unanimously by the board following the presentation.
The Stanly County Board of Commissioners will hold its next meeting on Feb. 6 in the Gene McIntyre Room at Stanly Commons.