For motorists who’ve ever been frustrated by the two-lane main road between Mount Airy and Dobson — a roughly 10-mile stretch where traffic sometimes is slow and impossible to pass — relief is on the way.
The two-lane portion of U.S. 601, also known as Rockford Street, is in store for a major project that will involve widening the roadway to four lanes. This is scheduled to occur from Interstate 74 just south of Mount Airy to Cody Trail (State Road 1104) at Dobson, under long-range plans by the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Four-laning U.S. 601 is on the DOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program list of projects for 2018-2027. That 821-page document covering needs statewide is to receive official approval in August during a meeting of the N.C. Board of Transportation, but the U.S. 601 project is basically a done-deal, according to an area official.
“It’s funded,” said Dean Ledbetter, senior planning engineer for the DOT’s Division 11, an eight-county area that includes Surry.
Ledbetter explained that $54.7 million has been set aside for the four-laning of U.S. 601 between Mount Airy and Dobson. “The funding is locked in — so it’s secured funding,” he said.
The DOT’s timetable calls for right-of-way acquisition in 2019 and for construction of the extra lanes to occur from 2020 to 2022, in addition to related intersection improvements along the way.
Although Ledbetter is based in North Wilkesboro — in the District/Resident Engineer’s Office for Division 11 — he is well familiar with the issues surrounding the local section of roadway scheduled for improvements due to logging many years in the division.
Ledbetter said he recognized early on in his career that the two-lane route between Mount Airy and Dobson represented a glaring problem.
“It just made sense to me to have that four-lane road,” the senior planning engineer said, citing the heavy traffic between Surry’s most-populous municipality and the town that is home to the county seat and institutions such as Surry Community College.
Ledbetter echoed the thoughts of many a motorist who’s traversed that route and wished for such a development: “It would be nice to see.”
Plans to be finalized
While the four-laning project is already funded and awaiting formal approval by the state transportation board in August, Ledbetter says there are still some details needing to be finalized.
One is the exact distance that will receive the extra lanes.
The length of the project is now set at 7.2 miles — the span from Interstate 74 at Mount Airy to Cody Trail. But Ledbetter indicated that this could be extended farther down U.S. 601, to the junction of N.C. 268.
“We don’t know exactly how the project is going to look,” he said. “Cody Trail may be the end point.”
Ledbetter added that the scope will become finalized within the next year or so as planners complete their work.
“We haven’t even gotten an engineering firm selected yet,” he said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.