BOONE — After the Boone Town Council voted 3-2 on May 7 to reject the $10.54 million N.C. 105 superstreet project from the N.C. Department of Transportation, several citizens and council members said they nonetheless want to do something along the roughly two-mile stretch of road to make it safer.
Councilwoman Lynne Mason in particular wanted to make sure council didn’t forget about potential sidewalks and bike paths along the road, as she proposed a motion to council, which passed, to agree not to abandon the idea.
A continuous center turn lane, a lower speed limit, more stoplights, redesigned intersections were all proposed over multiple public hearings from October through May.
Regarding streets, one group has sought to improve not just N.C. 105, but all of Boone. Dave Freireich and his nonprofit Harmony Lanes was initially founded to help find solutions for pedestrian issues around Hardin Park School, but now are looking to make all of Boone bike and pedestrian friendly.
For N.C. 105, Harmony Lanes presented the Boone Town Council and the N.C. Department of Transportation with an idea for multi-modal lanes for bike and pedestrian traffic.
“We have a vision for a town-wide interconnected multi-modal system using the same design language to be built our over the next few decades as a component of major road projects,” Freireich wrote to Boone on April 29. “We need to link town and university amenities for the large contingent of residents who want safer pedestrian and human-powered vehicle infrastructure. Multi-modal lanes are the best way to do that not knowing what will be the dominant non-car transportation decades from now.”
Multi-modal lanes are separated from the road by trees or shrubbery and would be designed specifically for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
Currently, bike lanes exist along U.S. 421 and Blowing Rock Road, but Mayor Pro-Tem Loretta Clawson and others have noted it’s dangerous to ride a bike alongside cars going 35-45 mph.
Freireich said he wants to put in multi-modal paths along all the large highways in Boone. The proposed N.C. Department of Transportation N.C. 105 plan did not have multi-modal lanes, but Freireich said he was trying to get the idea included.
Going forward, Freireich isn’t sure about what Harmony Lanes will do as far as N.C. 105, but would like to continue to work with the town and NCDOT on potential multi-modal lanes. NCDOT board member Cullie Tarleton said that the town would have to submit an application for any pedestrian/bike project to be included in the department’s funding plans in the future.
During the superstreet debate, several public commenters pushed the idea of aligning Poplar Grove Road South and the N.C. 105 Bypass intersection or even with Poplar Grove Road North. In response, the NCDOT said the terrain was too steep and alignments were not included in any of the superstreet concepts. However, many feel like the idea is still worth pursuing.
“All of our Poplar Grove Road South neighbors that I have spoken with, a number of Watauga County Commissioners, a number of Boone Town Council members support the alignment of Poplar Grove Road South with the bypass, knowing that there is a good deal of grading involved and a possible stone retaining wall,” said Mark Kirkpatrick, owner of Mountain Construction, located on Poplar Grove Road South, in a letter to the town of Boone.
Along with crafting a safer N.C. 105 and giving The Cottages housing complex a lighted intersection, Kirkpatrick says aligning the intersection would make it easier for the tentatively planned Daniel Boone Parkway bypass project, which is currently slated to begin work in 2029 or later, to be installed.