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Pandemic partially to blame for Waynesville roundabout delay

Pandemic partially to blame for Waynesville roundabout delay
(Photo credit: WLOS)

A roundabout project is on hold in Waynesville and COVID-19 is partially to blame. Before the pandemic, work had begun to clear some old buildings. Now, they’ve become an eyesore. But people are working together to clear them away.

Construction for a roundabout on Waynesville’s North Main Street was set to begin around this time.

But what could be called a financial storm for the Department of Transportation (DOT) has put the project on hold. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent statewide for repairs after natural disasters, handling a class action lawsuit by landowners and now the revenue impact from coronavirus.

“With people not driving, that’s about a $300 million hit,” DOT Spokesman David Uchiyama said.

The roundabout project is on hold until 2024. And the DOT explained another reason for the delay.

“Is to allow that route to be used as a detour while work on the Russ Avenue project, specifically the bridge over Richland Creek, is being conducted,” Uchiyama said.

The Russ Avenue project is set to begin sometime next year.

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Demolition of some buildings around North Main Street had already started to make way for the roundabout before the project was frozen. Those buildings have been left in stages of disrepair. One building recently burned. Jennifer Oates and her family run Del-Rays Consignment store at the intersection.

“Not only an eyesore, it's become a hazard now, as you can see. The building beside us burned. We have the homeless people living in those buildings,” Oates said.

“We've had a fair amount of vandalism,” Town Manager Rob Hites said.

He said Waynesville and DOT leaders have worked together to find a way to remove the old structures, since the DOT has purchased the right of way.

“They've been very responsive in trying to find some resources to tear the buildings down using their own staff,” Hites said.

The DOT said it received permission for the local DOT office to begin the demolition of the gutted buildings soon.

“DOT crews from Haywood County, the maintenance department crews, they will be out within the next couple of weeks bringing those buildings down,” Uchiyama said.

“Tear down in a reasonable time. I'm all for that,” Oates said.

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