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Hope Mills board tables Johnson Street project


HOPE MILLS - The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to table the Johnson Street project after issues were raised related to sidewalks and CSX rail crossings.

Board members said they needed more time and research before making a decision. “Tabling” a project legally allows the board to delay, postpone or suspend a project. It also allows any decisions or budget considerations that were already established to continue should the board review the project in the future. 

The board last month heard about CSX requirements related to insurance and signal improvement requirements at the Johnson Street rail crossing. The town initially wanted to make Johnson Street one-way down to the lake. Part of the project included sidewalk work through the railroad crossing.

The town was told there were two outstanding issues related to the project: insurance requirements and roadway alignment and subsequent design changes to the rail signals.

CSX Railroad requires the town to have a railroad protective policy declaration for $5 million, according to information in the agenda packet from Public Works Director Don Sisko. Premiums to address that issue could cost thousands each year, Sisko said in the documents.

Commissioner Jerry Legge said he had concerns regarding the options that were presented to the town as “one of them was big money.”

“Why do we need to spend this money and DOT is going to put a sidewalk down Rockfish Road? We don’t need to worry about all these permits,” Legge said.  

Board members said Johnson Street is already congested and they raised questions about liability. 

Legge said a traffic circle could be one way to ease congestion.

Sisko agreed with Legge about redirecting traffic and recommended a traffic study. “With the amount of traffic that is coming in and leaving Rockfish Road, I think it would be prudent to have somebody do an impact study, a traffic count and a future development study,” Sisko said. 

Sisko said there are areas at the end of Rockfish Road that are for sale. Commercial development there could create additional traffic, he said. If they were able to get someone to design a flow pattern for the streets, it should eliminate some congestion problems at those choke points, Sisko told the board. 

In addition to the insurance issue, CSX told the town that work would be required to change the signals at the Johnson Street crossing. Sisko had told the board there appeared to be three options for the town. The first would be to pay CSX all of the fees and continue with the project under the original concept. A second option would be to discontinue the sidewalk at both sides of the railroad right of way. That would essentially remove the railroad requirements from the project. A third would be to discontinue the sidewalk project and revaluate.

Commissioner Joanne Scarola said she did not see a favorable solution in the options that Sisko presented. 

“Even if we were to get the sidewalk there, it's still a dangerous curve, even if it's a one-way street coming from Main Street to Rockfish. It's a liability even before we get the sidewalks in,”  Scarola said. “I think it’s a bad idea to continue the sidewalk.”  

Legge also said it may be time to reconsider the project.

"I think we should trash the project,’’ Legge said. “That’s a lot of money. We can use that money for something else rather than be tied up and spending our citizens' money on stuff like that.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved a site plan for a Circle K on Legion Road.

The board voted 4 to 1 to approve a site plan for a convenience store and smoke shop on Main Street. Legge voted in opposition. The plan did not include sidewalk requirements because it was an existing structure.

“I fought for years to get sidewalks,” Legge told the board. “I’d rather see sidewalks.” 

Chancer McLauglin, the director of planning and economic development, said if the businesses were new construction or a renovation, sidewalks would be required.

Jason Canady covers Hope Mills for CityViewTODAY. He can be reached at jcanady@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Hope Mills, Board of Commissioners, Johnson Street, sidewalks, CSX rail crossings, insurance