What walking down Third Street is expected to look like after construction is complete. Submitted Image/Town of Pembroke.
By Zachary C. Young, Editor-in-Chief
A major road improvement project in Pembroke will result in two years of construction and detours downtown. The end result: improved safety for pedestrians and less congestion at downtown intersections, say town officials.
The Town of Pembroke was awarded a $5.2 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to improve the downtown infrastructure. This includes adding a center turn lane down Third Street and additional pedestrian walkways.
The entire project will cost approximately $6.7 million. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has pledged $250,000 and The Town of Pembroke will contribute approximately $1.1 million.
According to Pembroke Town Manager Tyler Thomas, the project will have positive impacts on the town, alleviating safety and congestion issues that occur at numerous intersections along Third Street.
“We will be providing additional bike and pedestrian infrastructure. It will make different points of interest in the community more accessible, regardless of mode of travel. We want to ensure that every member of our community has a safe way to move around,” said Thomas.
The biking and pedestrian connection will start on Odom Road beside Burger King and extend downtown.
During the two-year construction process, Thomas anticipates periodic detours and road closures. “That’s unavoidable, given the nature of the work. A lot of the work being done is on or near existing streets,” said Thomas.
Mayor of Pembroke Charles Gregory Cummings said that if the construction on Union Chapel Road can be completed first, that would lessen the traffic on Third Street once that construction begins.
Regarding the construction that will take place on Third Street—also known as NC 711—the actual road width will not change, but on-street parking will be removed so that a center turn lane can be added. This construction will take place from Vance Street to Jones Street.
“We have tremendous economic growth in Pembroke right now,” said Cummings. “All the projects happening, and the university’s School of Business building, those projects are worth over $100 million. You don’t see that much growth in small towns in southeastern North Carolina. I think this project will stimulate further economic growth in the future, bringing in other businesses.”
From a commercial standpoint, the “Third Street Project,” as it’s known, will enable people to better and more safely access their businesses, according to Thomas.
There will be storm water improvements to address flooding problems, with one of the phases of construction involving the storm water infrastructure in front of the UNCP Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub (Town Manager Thomas is a distant cousin of university benefactor Jim Thomas). Mr. Tyler Thomas said that during construction everything that’s done above ground will be preceded by underground replacement and improvement of all existing utilities.
According to Thomas, to reconfigure parking, the town will be developing two public parking lots north of Union Chapel Road. The town is also working with a property owner to create a small parking lot south of Third Street.
The town hopes to add additional sidewalks, landscaping and pedestrian fencing on the side of the Entrepreneurship Hub opposite the railroad tracks.
The master plan that guides the project was approved by the Pembroke Town Council back in 2016.