Hendersonville Lightning: Highland Lake Road project cost soars

From the Hendersonville Lightning:

The N.C. Department of Transportation recently awarded a contract to upgrade North Highland Lake Road with construction starting as soon as Oct. 1 — an amount that puts total project cost $7 million above engineers’ original projection.

In January of 2020, the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization voted 15-1 in opposition to a request from the Village of Flat Rock to stop the project. Also that month, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to support the project, and the Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee voted 8-1 to support the project. In both cases the lone no votes were cast by Flat Rock Vice Mayor Anne Coletta, who led a slate of candidates opposed to the road project to victory in the November 2019 village election.

The total project cost, the NCDOT told Coletta in response to her inquiry, is currently $9.57 million — $7 million more than the original $2.62 million estimate. Project costs include $1.27 million for engineering, $1.6 million for utility relocation and right of way and $6.7 million for construction.

“I think it’s disappointing for the taxpayers that NCDOT is continuing with this project, which the local Flat Rock community through its elected officials has requested be stopped,” Coletta said in an email. “This road project has increased from an initial cost estimate of $2.62 million to the current $9.57 million, a 265 percent increase. There are more worthwhile projects in Henderson County that are needed and wanted that this money should go towards. According to the state auditor’s office, NCDOT has a recent history of poor budgeting and oversight and, in my opinion, the North Highland Lake Road project is an example of this mismanagement.”. . .

7 thoughts on “Hendersonville Lightning: Highland Lake Road project cost soars

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  1. Thank you, Anne, for your remarks. They are spot on. This project has been the poster child for government malpractice from Day One. It began as the fever dream of some members of the prior village council who, despite a clear lack of support from the community, forged ahead. Happily, our democracy prevailed and they were rejected at the polls soon thereafter. The fetid fruits of their actions are now ripening and — as if the soaring cost were not enough — our tranquility and ease of moving about will be disrupted daily, scarring the character as well as the landscape of our pastoral village.

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  2. Any suggestions on how to express our displeasure with the way this is headed?

    Not only is the cost a major issue and miscalculation on the part of NCDOT, but if they manage this in the same manner they did on the Greenville Highway round about, whatever timetable they’ve projected can most assuredly be 2x to 4x longer. How can they proceed with projects like this when they so sorely missed their total state expenditure projections a year or two ago?

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    1. When the news first broke about the enormous increase in projected costs for this project, I wrote to the NC Secretary of Transportation, with copies to half a dozen of his direct reports (including the IG and General Counsel), detailing my understanding of its provenance and checkered history, and asking the tough questions. The most attention I could stir up was a bureaucratic reply from the “second undermumbler to the left” of some regional official. Disgraceful DOT.

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  3. Henderson County has some of the worst roads in NC. And yet the NCDOT says they don’t have the money to repair or re-surface them. But they have plenty of money to spend on un-wanted or un-needed projects like this one.

    To get a job at NCDOT one must have little or no common sense.

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  4. In the exit-54 loop going from I-26 to SR-25 there is a massive (and growing) sinkhole that has been there since at least 2019…

    …it is a true road hazard and NOTHING is being done other that occasionally moving a few orange traffic cones outward in order to encircle the ever widening hole…

    …one must literally almost drive off the road to get around it!!

    Possibly this is worth highlighting on the CLG site?

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