The Smithfield Crossings road project is on schedule for completion in December, but the work will cause traffic-pattern changes this month.
Smithfield’s planning director, Paul Embler, updated the council at its meeting on Tuesday.
The traffic pattern on Industrial Park Drive will change in mid-September, Embler said. That news raised concerns among council members, who wondered whether the change would hurt fall shopping at the outlet center.
Embler said that shouldn’t be a problem because the number of lanes won’t decrease. Workers will shift traffic onto new pavement while they work elsewhere.
“So we’ll keep the same number of lanes, just the lanes are going to be in a different location,” Embler said. The traffic shift will last about two months, he said.
The long-delayed Smithfield Crossings project stalled again this year when contractors found numerous underground utility lines along the path of the road.
That complication pushed the end date into next year. But Embler said the contractors plan to work through the holidays and finish the project in December. If not, the ground will become too hard, and work will have to stop until spring, he said.
Despite the delay, the project is still on track financially. The original budget of about $6.15 million has not changed, although the scope of the project has shrunk over the years of planning. So far, the town has about spent about $4.7 million.
“So we’re about two-thirds through the amount of funds there are for the project, which I think more than matches the amount of work that’s been accomplished,” Embler said. “I think that’s a good place to be.”
The town is doing the project in cooperation with the N.C. Department of Transportation, which is responsible for work on the exit ramp from Interstate 95. The DOT won’t resume construction until the town finishes parts of Industrial Park Drive. But everything should come together to finish by the end of December, Embler said.
Town Manager Paul Sabiston gave the council an update on talks with Piedmont Natural Gas, which has not run gas lines to East Smithfield. The council wants Piedmont to conduct another survey to determine customer interest but this time with input from the community.
The council also heard about sand in the town’s water reservoir. Public utilities director Earl Botkin explained that sand has been coming in from the Neuse River and settling in the reservoir, which now has a mound of 3,000 to 4,000 cubic yards. The sand is also eating up pipes and affecting the water-treatment plant, he said.
Botkin is still waiting on the N.C. Rural Center, the troubled economic-development agency that previously promised a grant to Smithfield to study the problem. He has received verbal confirmation that Smithfield will get the money but is waiting for written confirmation.
The council approved a conditional-use permit for an embalming facility with limited viewing by family members. The applicant is Atkinson & Davis Memorial, and the location is near the intersection of West Market Street and Whitley Drive.
Council members discussed economic-development opportunities in the county and decided to create a committee to explore options. Councilmen Andy Moore, Perry Harris and Charles A. Williams are on the committee. They will make their first report to the council next month.
Chris Johnson received a key to the city for his work at the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. He is leaving the town this month to become the county’s economic-development director.