Tuesday, July 16, 2024

$68M Gordon Road widening project to break ground next summer

Gordon Road, 2.5 miles between I-40 and Market Street, will be widened from two lanes to four; construction is anticipated to start next summer. (Courtesy NCDOT)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Next year, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will begin construction on widening 2.5 miles of Gordon Road from I-40 to Market Street. But before it can begin, NCDOT has been acquiring properties.

READ MORE: NCDOT proposes new design for Military Cutoff, Eastwood overpass to begin 2026

Commissioners signed off last week on selling a county-owned parcel to the state transportation agency to advance the project in northern New Hanover. The 0.19-acre parcel at 6102 Gordon Road is one of many needed.  

Property acquisitions are estimated to cost more than $16 million, with 15 full residential properties to be relocated and 161 parcels required altogether.

“This total number includes everything from needing a small piece of temporary construction easement to ROW relocation purchase,” NCDOT spokesperson Lauren Haviland said.

New Hanover County commissioners approved the sale for $131,500 at last week’s meeting. The county purchased the land in August 2022 to build the future Gordon Road fire station. NCDOT only requires a fraction of the property for a temporary construction easement and permanent utility easement.

The county still plans to build its fire department on the site with $4.8 million allocated to it in its 2022-2026 capital improvement plan. The project will address high call volumes and reduce response time for incidents in the Gordon Road area, according to county documents. The Military Cutoff Road extension construction has caused increased delays, which led to staff realizing the need for an additional station.

The project’s completion will transform Gordon Road from two lanes to four to improve the roadway’s capacity and help reduce congestion. In 2019, NCDOT estimated daily traffic in this area to be 22,000 to 24,400 cars; by 2045, it forecasts that number to spike to more than 35,000 cars.

In the last several years, more than 700 new residential units have been approved, including — 439 single-family and apartment units at the Landing at Lewis Creek, 300 apartments at Hawthorne at Smith Creek and an 84-unit affordable housing complex, Estrella Landing. The build-outs have added to the roadway’s capacity.

The Gordon Road widening design includes a 17.5-foot raised median for right-in, right-out turns only on the more than 2-mile roadway. To cross the roadway or make a left turn, drivers will have to pull into a designated turn lane and make a U-turn. There will likely be a traffic signal at each U-turn as well.

NCDOT will be adding multi-use paths along Gordon Road, from I-40 to Market Street. On the north side, there will be a 10-foot-wide path, while the south side will have a 5-foot sidewalk, each separated from the main road by a grassy patch.

New Hanover County has agreed to a cost-share for construction of the multi-use paths. The total cost is $845,000 and the county’s portion to NCDOT is $169,000, according to county spokesperson Alex Riley.

One resident reached out to county commissioners via email July 13 with concerns about the expansion.

A board member of Farrington Farms’ HOA, Sally Bringard isn’t a fan of the design. The project would prohibit drivers from turning left onto Ogden Park Drive, including buses going to Eaton Elementary and visitors to Ogden Park, according to Bringard.

With the neighborhood adjacent to both, she is worried planned improvements will send increased traffic past her house.

“We already can’t handle the traffic that the overbooked park creates, you are making things worse, taking away our safety from traffic and the overall appearance to our neighborhood, which we have worked hard to maintain over the years,” Bringard wrote. “You will be diminishing the value of our homes.”

Bringard recommends NCDOT perform an updated traffic study once the Military Cutoff Drive Extension is complete late summer to determine if it helped mitigate traffic enough to not need the Gordon Road widening.

During New Hanover County Schools agenda review Tuesday, the board discussed briefly the Gordon Road project, as it will impact Eaton Elementary. Assistant superintendent of operations Eddie Anderson said during the meeting NCDOT will need a portion of property for right-of-way. He plans to put any received compensation in a capital budget to use for expanding parking at the school to mitigate traffic back-up into the road during parent drop-off and pick-up.

“I don’t know what they may or may not look like, but it will be funding to start evaluating that,” Anderson said.

The Gordon Road project was first submitted for consideration into NCDOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program in 2016.

The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has ranked it in its top 25 priority projects since the mid-2000s.

The project was included and funded in the 2020-2029 STIP and was accelerated based on input from local stakeholders.

Design was initiated by the state in 2019, with the final road alignment approved in February 2021. A public meeting was held in Wilmington in December 2021 to provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions.

More than 100 people attended, according to NCDOT documents and 126 comments in total were received about the project. The majority were regarding bicycle and pedestrian access, as well as right-of-way impacts.

The project also received $5 million from Build NC, a financing tool enacted in 2019 to ensure state transportation projects remain funded and on track.

The Gordon Road widening, estimated now at $63.9 million, has increased from $46.8 million in December 2021. NCDOT attributes the spike to supply chain issues and rise in labor costs. The project is fully funded for all phases — right-of-way acquisition and construction.

NCDOT plans to break ground next summer.

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