Letter: Time to reprioritize

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In response to the revelation that I-85 north of Spencer will soon be eight lanes of highway choking down to four, I submit the resolution Steve Blount pushed the Rowan County Commission to adopt on June 16, 2003, which concluded, “Therefore be it resolved, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners supports the efforts of the organized coalition to preserve the Historic Trading Ford District from further degradation and help seek a compromise with NCDOT to preserve the Trading Ford District and span the river with the interstate Highway in a manner so that the area and its historic sites can remain eligible for the National Historic Register.”

Unless rescinded, that resolution continues to guide the NCDOT and other state and federal agencies. The old adage, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it” definitely has come home to roost. Pursuant to what Rowan County wanted, highway priorities changed, and funds were used elsewhere. In addition, Ann Brownlee (TFHDPA president) flaunts the resolution in the faces of property owners as though she is the recipient of a 10,000-acre land grant.

On Aug. 3, 2006, Brownlee gave sworn testimony to the Spencer Zoning Board that she wanted an area demarcated on her map declared “off limits to any grading activity.” Despite the infamous lack of support she and her organization have in the Trading Ford “district,” county officials were wooed by her hysteric cries in 2003.

How many more traffic fatalities need to happen because of the misguided priorities of Ann Brownlee and the former commissioners who acceded to her demands? This new commission has the power and the “Common Sense” to reprioritize if it chooses.

— Norman Thomas

Salisbury

Editor’s note: According to Pat Ivey, division engineer for the DOT district that includes Rowan and Davidson, the resolution in question was primarily intended to stave off destruction of the old Wilcox Bridge over the Yadkin River so it could eventually be used as a pedestrian walkway. The resolution has no impact on replacement of the I-85 bridge, he said. The 2005 delay in the I-85 project north of Long Ferry Road stemmed from concerns raised by local preservation activist Ann Brownlee.

“What actually transpired was that the project was let and we had received bids when, at the last minute, we had to put it on hold because of concerns about the historic impact (on the Trading Ford area),” Ivey said. “We wanted to make sure we were not creating any problems. We got the federal officials involved, and they went through the process. They ultimately determined that all of the areas in question had already been studied, and the proposed realignment of I-85 would not impact any significant historical areas. About the same time we had those delays, we ran into funding issues. The problem now is just lack of money.”

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