Castle Bridge 2

Construction on a parallel bridge to replace Castle Bridge that connects Burke and Caldwell counties is scheduled to start in 2022. NCDOT also plans to widen Malcolm Boulevard and Connelly Springs Road to Lenoir.

Improvements to numerous exits along Interstate 40 in Burke County have been pushed further out in the state’s 10-year draft transportation plan.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Transportation released an updated draft version of its 2020-29 State Transportation Improvement Plan for public comment.​ The initial draft STIP 2020-29 was released in January. The N.C. Board of Transportation is expected to adopt the final STIP in September, according to information from the department.

In NCDOT’s Division 13, which includes Burke, Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford and Yancey counties, there are 107 projects.

In addition to improvements to multiple I-40 exits in Burke County, plans for improvements to the intersection of Burkemont Avenue and West Fleming Drive in Morganton are in the draft plan.

David Uchiyama, a public information officer with NCDOT, said funding for the proposed work to the intersection has been secured. Currently, the STIP calls for construction to cost an estimated $1 million but Uchiyama said the estimates may be adjusted as needed during development of the project.

Uchiyama said it’s too early in the process to identify the specific improvements to the intersection and design but it will include significant pedestrian improvements. He said all of that will be determined after further examination of the intersection.

Right-of-way acquisition for the project is slated to start in 2024 and construction would start in 2025, the draft says.

In addition to improvements to the intersection, the STIP also includes replacing the bridge on Burkemont Avenue over Southern Railroad’s tracks. The estimated cost of the project is $3,350,000, with construction slated to start in 2021.

Another major bridge replacement project in Burke County is in the STIP.

Construction on the parallel bridge replacement of Castle Bridge over the Catawba River in Rutherford College is scheduled to start in 2022, with an estimated cost of $17.5 million.

Malcolm Boulevard and Connelly Springs Road to South-West Boulevard in Lenoir is in the STIP to be widened to multiple lanes, with construction to start in 2024 at an estimated cost of $47 million.

The cost estimates in this story don’t include right-of-way acquisition or the cost of utilities or relocation of utilities.

The draft STIP includes the bridge on Sugar Loaf Road over Rock Creek being replaced, with the right-of-ways secured next year and construction expected to start in 2021. The estimated cost of construction is $700,000.

The plan also includes widening 2.8 miles to three lanes from Spainhour Road to Bost Road. Construction is slated to start in 2024 with an estimated cost of construction at $13.8 million.

Also set to be widened is St. Mary Church Road to the Morganton Extraterritorial Jurisdiction — 0.9 mile — with construction slated to start in 2024 at an estimated cost of $9.7 million.

Other projects in Burke County included in the STIP are:

» The I-40 Exit 103 — Interchange improvements right-of-way acquisition is delayed from this year to 2020 and construction has been delayed until 2023. Construction is estimated at $1 million.

» I-40 Exit 100 — Upgrade of the interchange has been delayed to 2023 to assist in balancing funds. Construction of the project is estimated at $1,875,000.

» I-40 Exit 107 (Drexel Road) — Construction to upgrade the interchange has been delayed until 2023 to assist in balancing funds. Construction of the project is estimated at $13.5 million.

» I-40 Exit 118 (Old NC 10) — Upgrade interchange and remove two-way traffic, with construction expected to start in 2023 at an estimated cost of $10.4 million.

» I-40 Exit 116 — Upgrade interchange and remove two-way traffic, with construction expected to start in 2024 at an estimated cost of $9.5 million.

» I-40 Exit 111 (Carolina Street SE) — Work on the exit would revise the interchange but construction has been delayed from 2020 until 2023 to assist in balancing funds. Construction of the project is estimated at $2.9 million.

» Exit 112 (Mineral Springs Mountain Road, Eldred Street) — Construct interchange improvements at a cost of $16 million. Construction is expected to start in 2023.

» I-40 — Rehabilitate bridges throughout Burke County from mile marker 93 to mile marker 119 at a construction cost estimated at $4 million. Work is scheduled to start in 2021.

» College Street in Morganton — Construct 1.34 miles of a multi-use connector path from North Green Street to U.S. 70. Construction is expected to start in 2021 at an estimated cost of $2.9 million.

» Fonta Flora State Trail — Construct a bicycle and pedestrian path at the Intersection of Laurel Ridge Court and North Powerhouse Road to the proposed Harris Whisnant Trailhead at the intersection of Harry Whisnant and Cobb roads. The STIP calls for securing right-of-ways in 2020 at an estimated cost of $626,000.

» A bicycle and pedestrian Morganton downtown greenway connector scheduled to start in 2020 at an estimated construction cost of $1.6 million.

» To modernize the roadway 6.6 miles from Watermill Road to Fish Hatchery Road is in the plan but construction is unfunded in the draft STIP.

» Also included in the plan but unfunded is the redesign of I-40 Exit 98 interchange, which would remove the two-way onramp. Right-of-way attainment is scheduled for 2029 and construction in future years, the STIP says.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at smcbrayer@morganton.com or at 828-432-8946.

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