Direct access between N.C. 268 East and two intersecting and heavily-traveled secondary roads is temporarily closed due to work on a major highway improvement project underway since the spring of 2015.
The Fairplains Road intersection with N.C. 268 is scheduled to reopen Oct. 2 after being closed June 5. The Liberty Grove Church Road intersection with the same highway was closed June 13 and is scheduled to reopen July 12.
Trent Beaver, construction engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division 11, said there are signed detours in place for each of these closures.
The detour for Fairplains Road utilizes Aaron Call Road, which intersects with N.C. 268 on the south and Fairplains Road on the north.
The detour for Liberty Grove Church Road uses the 850-foot-long Ridge Top Road, which connects with N.C. 268 near the Knotville Fire Station about 900 feet east of the closed Liberty Grove Church Road intersection. On the west, Liberty Grove Church Road becomes River Road and intersects with Second Street in North Wilkesboro.
The Fairplains Road intersection is closed for replacement of a deeply buried drainage system consisting of an existing 7-foot-by-7-foot concrete box culvert and metal pipe. It includes 108 feet of corrugated metal pipe that was failing prior to the project. A large sinkhole appeared there after work started when the pipe collapsed.
He said the Liberty Grove Church Road intersection was closed due to a realignment and grade change. Airport Road intersects with the north side of N.C. 268, directly opposite where Liberty Grove Church Road intersects. There is still direct access between Airport Road and N.C. 268.
The four-way intersection of Liberty Grove Church Road and Airport Road with N.C. 268 is the eastern end of the 3.6-mile N.C. 268 project. The western end is where N.C. 268 intersects with N.C. 18 North in North Wilkesboro.
“Traffic should hopefully be utilizing all lanes of the new N.C. 268 East project by late spring or early summer of 2020,” said Beaver. He added that work is about 70 percent complete. It was originally scheduled for completion in October 2019, but Beaver said it was delayed by issues related to utility relocation and record rainfall in 2018.
“Utility relocation resources were diverted to other areas with their forces being devoted to restoring electricity and other recovery work in the wake of Hurricanes Michael and Florence and other storms. This slowed grading for N.C. 268 because it meant having to work around utility poles until they could be moved.”
Burnsville-based Young & McQueen Grading Co., with a bid of $25.9 million, was hired by the state as general contractor.
He said no additional lanes will be added to the existing five-lane section from N.C. 18 to Fairplains Road in North Wilkesboro, but new curb and gutter and sidewalk will be installed.
N.C. 268 is being widened to four lanes divided with a raised median from Fairplains Road to Airport Road. Paving of the eastbound lanes is underway. The westbound lanes will utilize the existing roadway.
From Fairplains Road to Airport Road, left turns and U-turns will only be allowed at designated locations, similar to the superstreet concept being used with U.S. 421 in western Wilkesboro.
Left turns will be possible for eastbound traffic at the intersections of Fairplains Road, Vista Lane, Beaumont-Poplar Street and Airport Road. There will be a U-turn “bulb-out” for eastbound traffic about 1,000 feet east of the Fairplains Road intersection. U-turns for eastbound passenger vehicles will also be allowed at Flint Hill Road, Vista Lane and Beaumont-Poplar Street.
For westbound traffic, left turns will be possible at the intersections of Liberty Grove Church Road and Flint Hill Road, with a U-turn bulb-out at Fairplains Road. U-turns for westbound passenger vehicles will also be allowed at Flint Hill Road, Vista Lane and Beaumont-Poplar Street.
The project includes the addition of a sidewalk on the south side of N.C. 268 from N.C. 18 to the Flint Hill Road intersection. On the north side of N.C. 268, a sidewalk will be added from the White Pine Street intersection to Flint Hill Road.