By Dave Russell
Pedestrians walking along Skyland Drive in Sylva will have to wait a little longer to enjoy the safety and convenience of a sidewalk. COVID-19 is to blame for this second postponement of the project.
Town board members in July 2019 voted to pay a total of $278,000 for seven-tenths of a mile of pavement along Skyland Drive, an extra $175,000 more than they’d expected.
The project, originally slated to start in 2020, was put off until fiscal year 2021, town Manager Paige Dowling said.
With COVID-19 cutting into the gas tax that funds the N.C. Department of Transportation below its cash floor, thereby limiting the scope of their work, the project faces a second, indefinite postponement.
“Unfortunately, the project has been postponed, and we don’t have a date when it will be picked back up,” Dowling said. “We are very disappointed because we desperately need a sidewalk on Skyland Drive.”
The sidewalk construction is planned from the intersection of Skyland Drive with U.S. 23 Business (near McDonald’s) to the byway’s intersection with Chipper Curve Road.
Skyland Drive connects a number of Sylva neighborhoods and business areas. The two-lane road bisects a portion of town where businesses mix with trailers and homes.
NCDOT plans to rework the intersection of Chipper Curve Road and Skyland Drive.
The blueprint calls for concrete on both sides of the road from Skyland Drive’s intersection with U.S. 23 Business to the intersection with East Sylva Circle.
From there, sidewalk is destined for the left side of the road only (traveling north) to where Skyland Drive intersects Chipper Curve.
When finished, Skyland Drive’s sidewalk will be 5- to 7-feet wide, with 2.5 additional feet of curb and guttering.
Skyland Drive’s new sidewalk represents the first significantly sized town project of this kind in 13 years, when sidewalks were added between Sylva and Dillsboro.
Just a few hundred yards away is another project on the town’s agenda, the Allen Street landslides.
An initial slide in March closed Allen Street to through traffic and caused the asphalt drive leading into Bryson Park to buckle upward. That one could cost the town more than $600,000 to repair.
A second slope failure, about 260 feet southwest of the bigger slide, began sliding about five months after the first one. It encompasses about .26 acres and led the N.C. Department of Transportation to block mud from seeping onto Chipper Curve Road with concrete barriers.
The town hired the Kessel Engineering Group of Asheville to work up the engineering report on the slides, the first of which is complete.
“We’re just waiting on the Kessel report on the second slide so we can write a request for quotes and start the bid process,” Sylva’s Director of Public Works Jake Scott said.
The cost for that second area would “probably be less” than the $600,000 price tag on the original slide, Scott said.
Drilling wrapped up at the second slide area in December, Scott told the town board at its December meeting.