Dirt road paving in Sampson could cease, DOT says

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

January 17, 2014

Keith Road could be the last dirt road paved in Sampson County for the foreseeable future due to new regulations in how secondary road funds are distributed.

N.C. Department of Transportation district engineer Lin Reynolds said the DOT’s Secondary Roads Program is now examined on a state level rather than at the county level, meaning Sampson may not see the funds it has in past years. Secondary road projects are submitted each year by the local DOT district, which provides local officials constant updates on the status of projects for unpaved and paved roads on that annual list.

Year by year, dirt roads have been crossed off that list.

Sampson had 18 miles of unpaved roads just several years ago., With the paving of numerous dirt roads, including Jimmy Road, Eura Tart Road, Johnny Road and Old Cotton Gin Road, to go with the more recent resurfacing of Ballance, Fleet Naylor, Jasper and Darden roads, that number currently stands at approximately 10 miles.

DOT conducts a study of all state-maintained unpaved roads in order to determine the mileage for each county and the total across the state, with allocation of secondary roads funding — used for unpaved and paved road improvements — based upon the proportion of unpaved roads as compared to the miles statewide. Each county’s allocation is determined by dividing the total allocation by the statewide mileage times the number of miles in each county.

Sampson’s rural nature may work against getting some of that other 10 miles paved, Reynolds said.

“Starting this year, they’re looking at all the unpaved roads on a statewide level,” the engineer stressed. “So, we’re competing with all the counties in the whole state. Paving the dirt roads — Keith Road made the cut — but after that, there are going to be very few of those paved anymore in the county. Later on they will be, but there are just not enough homes on the road to justify doing it.”

Eason said Keith Road would be resurfaced in the spring. Tapped for $50,000 in funding as part of the unpaved improvements to pave 0.41 miles from N.C. 24 to the dead end, just a portion of the $165,000 needed.

Based on an unpaved mileage of approximately 14 miles in Sampson, compared to unpaved miles statewide, an allocation of $1.75 million was approved for 2012-13, just $150,000 of which is for unpaved road improvements. There was an additional $1,574,000 for paved road improvements, with the remaining $20,000 for volunteer fire departments, rescue squads, road additions and contingencies.

“Some of the funding sources we have to widen and resurface a road have been taken away this past year from the legislators,” said Reynolds. “We’re going to have to widen and resurface with regular resurfacing money.”

And those regular resurfacing funds will likely go to the most-traveled roads that need it.

“It is data-driven. It’s the number of vehicles on the road and also the condition of the road. We have to look at both. We’ve been using a target of 460 cars a day or more, may get asphalt. Anything less than that, if it is in decent condition, we’ll put stone on it,” said Reynolds. “That gives our roads a lifetime of 15 years, which is normal to get around to resurface.”

Reynolds and DOT maintenance engineer Keith Eason often field questions and concerns each month from county officials as part of a roads report to kick off each Board of Commissioners meeting. This month, Harry Parker mentioned that Ivanhoe Road had dips and unlevel pavement in spots, which he chalked up mainly to truck traffic, and asked Reynolds to look into it. Reynolds said Ivanhoe was “on the short list” to be paved but there was not much traffic on that road.

“If I can serve 1,000 cars a day with the same amount of money I can serve a road with 300 cars a day, it’s simple economics,” Reynolds said.

“They all need a lot of work — a lot more than we have funding for,” Reynolds said. “We have to review the condition (of roads) every two years. There is a rating on every road in the county, a number 0 through 100. We sort it out with (average daily traffic) and the rating. We look at each one of them.”

While there is a list of roads to be resurfaced based on that combined formula, those roads with more traffic are favored for projects over roads in the same condition but with less daily traffic.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at