Henderson County leaders express no plans to stop Highway 191 widening as residents hoped

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Henderson County leaders said they had no plans to try and stop the widening of Highway 191, construction of which is set to begin in June 2022. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Henderson County leaders expressed no plans to try and stop the widening of Highway 191 during Wednesday county commissioner meeting despite calls from residents to do just that.

“The board, again, will not take action to stop the project,” said County Manager Steve Wyatt.

It’s a plan that the NCDOT has been working on for quite some time.

Brian Burch, with the agency, spoke about the project and took questions during the commissioner’s meeting where he discussed the safety precautions taken with widening the road and the timeline of adding lanes to NC 191 from NC 280 to Mountain Road.

“It has a very high crash history. The rate is higher than the statewide average, so we do have concerns about the safety of the traveling public out here,” said Burch.

He said eliminating left-hand turns out of driveways will eliminate conflict points which should reduce the number of crashes.

Instead drivers wanting to go left will have to make a right turn and then a u-turn from a center lane.

“Studies have shown that those movements are much safer than people driving across three lanes to go in the opposite direction from those left turn lanes,” said Burch.

Some of the residents who are against the plan think otherwise, concerned more traffic would lead to more wrecks.

“They can go ahead with the land acquisition but I feel that they can also replan or redesign the 4 lanes to bring it down to 3 lanes that will encompass the ability to be expanded in the future to accommodate new technologies that haven’t been developed,” said Bill Rasmussen who lives along Highway 191.

Burch says at this point, right of way acquisition will start in October. He expects it to take about 2 1/2 years when adding in requiring easements and relocating utility lines.

Construction is set to begin in June 2022.