Isothermal Regional Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update–March 12, 2021

Covering McDowell, Polk and Rutherford Counties

Five Public Involvement meetings were held from February 24 through March 10, 2021: one each in Rutherford and McDowell Counties and three in Polk County.

Written public comments are still being accepted and can be sent to isothermalrpo@regionc.org. The steering committee will review the comments for possible inclusion in the Plan. The Public Comment Period will end on April 12, 2021.

All of the maps, videos, and project sheets are here.

Shared by IRPO–Litter Sweep Team Finds Lost Wallet

Wallet lost in Rutherford County returned to rightful owner

BOSTIC – N.C. Department of Transportation crews find all sorts of odd objects while picking up litter.

Sometimes, they find something very valuable.

Rutherford County Bridge Maintenance employee Brian Lowrey found something that holds money and is priceless to Elizabeth Willard while participating in NCDOT’s Spring Litter Sweep.

He found her wallet.

Willard lost the pink wallet, decorated with a sunglasses-wearing pineapple, about two months ago. On Friday, Lowery saw it sticking out amongst the aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic bags and other rubbish beside Pearidge Road. 

He opened it and saw Willard’s identification along with a phone number. Later that day, Lowery drove to Willard’s workplace and hand-delivered the missing wallet to its rightful owner.  Litter Sweep is NCDOT’s biannual statewide roadside litter removal initiative. NCDOT crews and North Carolina residents across the state participate in local efforts to clean up our roadways. The spring event runs through April 24. Learn more about how you can get involved.

Shared by IRPO–Highway Dedication Ceremony Honors Former Lt. Governor Dalton

Stretch of U.S. 74 named in honor of Walter H. Dalton

RALEIGH – Leaders from the N.C. Department of Transportation and members of the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners today honored a former lieutenant governor with a road naming in the town where he grew up.

Walter Dalton, who served as North Carolina’s lieutenant governor from 2009-2013, now has a 5.8-mile stretch of U.S. 74 from U.S. 221 to the Polk County line named for him.

“This is my name on this sign,” Dalton said, “but there are hundreds, thousands of names that belong there.”

NCDOT Board Member William “Billy” Clark emceed the ceremony at Kiwanis Park in Rutherfordton on Monday featuring remarks from Rutherford County Commissioners.

“Walter, we thank you for your service to our community, our county and our state,” Rutherford County Commission chairman Bryan King said during his remarks. “You have spent countless hours on behalf of the citizens of Rutherford County. We thank you.”

Dalton was born in Rutherford County in 1949, earned his bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his juris doctorate from UNC School of Law and was a U.S. District Court clerk before entering private practice.

He held a North Carolina senate seat for six consecutive terms and was elected North Carolina’s 33rd Lieutenant Governor in 2008. Following his elected career, Dalton poured his time and effort into higher education, specifically as the fifth president of Isothermal Community College, to help provide educational opportunities for all.

Dalton has been a major proponent and advocate of expanding U.S. 221 to four lanes — first from the South Carolina line to U.S. 74 and the new bypass in development now. He played an instrumental role in switching the name of the U.S. 74-A corridor from a number and a letter to College Avenue in order to increase awareness of Isothermal Community College and the growth along this corridor. Dalton is also involved in helping U.S. 74 become an interstate route.

The NCDOT Board of Transportation approved a resolution dedicating the highway in honor of Dalton in March. The process for dedicating the highway included resolutions of support from the town of Rutherfordton, the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners, a character certification and three letters of recommendation.

King, vice chairman Alan Toney, plus commissioners Michael Benfeld, David Hunt, Greg Loveland, former commissioner Eddie Holland and former law partner Elizabeth Miller each delivered remarks on Monday.

Clark invited Dalton and his wife, Lucille, daughter Elizabeth and son Brian to help unveil replica signs printed by NCDOT. Dalton concluded the celebration with a few words of his own.

“When I campaigned, I used to say everybody in my district wants the same thing whether they’re republicans or democrats,” Dalton said. “I hope that this is some affirmation for the people I thanked earlier, that we did some things to help some people.”

Shared by IRPO–More Than 3 Million Pounds of Roadside Litter Collected This Year

RALEIGH – As part of its litter removal efforts, N.C. Department of Transportation crews, contractors and volunteers have now collected more than 3 million pounds of litter from roadsides this year.  
“This is great progress towards making North Carolina cleaner and safer,” said state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette. “But the real challenge will be sustaining these litter-free roadways. We must all work towards stopping litter at its source.”

NCDOT reports that the agency and its partners have removed 3.1 million pounds of litter since Jan. 1. 

North Carolinians who wish to help keep roads clean can volunteer for the upcoming Spring Litter Sweep from April 10-24.  

NCDOT’s litter management programs are multifaceted. The department makes use of state-owned forces and contract services statewide. NCDOT’s Sponsor-A-Highway Program allows businesses, organizations and individuals to sponsor litter removal along roadsides. NCDOT is also proud to partner with the more than 120,000 participants in the Adopt-A-Highway Program, where volunteers pledge to clean a section of our highways at least four times a year. 

Litter is unsightly, costs millions of dollars to clean up, and can hurt the environment, tourism, and the state’s quality of life.  

Everyone should do their part by: 

  • Securing their loads before driving. Unsecured trash can fly from a vehicle and end up as roadside litter.  
  • Holding onto trash until it can be disposed of properly. Keep a litter bag in your vehicle so you can properly dispose of trash later.  
  • Recycling when possible. Recycling protects the environment, saves landfill space and keeps the community clean.  


Shared by IRPO–Luke Combs Joins the Fight Against Litter

ALEIGH – Multi-Platinum country music artist and North Carolina native Luke Combs calls upon North Carolinians to keep the state beautiful and keep litter off roadways. 

“We are from one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we need to do our part to help keep it that way,” Combs says in the PSA he recorded for NCDOT’s use.  

“We appreciate Luke volunteering his time to help spread the word,” said state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette. “Litter is an issue that affects everyone, and we need everyone’s help to stop it.” 

To view the two PSAs from Luke Combs, click here and here. To view NCDOT’s other litter prevention PSAs, visit NCDOT’s PSA Resources webpage

North Carolinians who wish to help keep roads clean can volunteer for the upcoming Spring Litter Sweep from April 10-24. Volunteers will be provided with trash bags, gloves and safety vests from local NCDOT County Maintenance Yard offices. 
Everyone can do their part by: 

  • Securing their loads before driving. Unsecured trash can fly from a vehicle and end up as roadside litter.  
  • Holding onto trash until it can be disposed of properly. Keep a litter bag in your vehicle so you can properly dispose of trash later.  
  • Recycling when possible. Recycling protects the environment, saves landfill space and keeps the community clean. 


Shared by IRPO–Woman Appointed to Lead Highway Division for Second Time in NCDOT History!

Burch promoted to western deputy chief engineer

SYLVA – For the second time in its history, a woman will lead a highway division for the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Wanda H. Austin, P.E. CPM, has been promoted to Division 14 engineer, the agency announced Friday.

“I am excited to accept the opportunity to lead such a great group of NCDOT employees,” Austin said. “NCDOT is a leader in the transportation industry, and the employees of Division 14 are ready to serve the people of western North Carolina.”

As the top highway engineer in Division 14, Austin will oversee planning, construction and maintenance of highway projects in the 10 westernmost counties.

More than 450 employees work under Austin’s supervision on more than 10,000 miles of roads in western North Carolina.

“Wanda is a strong engineer and a great role model for our department and women who want to pursue careers in engineering,” said state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette. “She has worked very hard in her years with the agency and we’re confident she will continue to make lasting contributions to improve the transportation system in western North Carolina.”

Austin becomes the first female Division Engineer in Division 14 and the second female Division Engineer in NCDOT history. Karen Collette, who retired in 2019 as the engineer for Wilmington-based Division 3, was the first female division engineer in the agency’s history.

Austin most recently served as Division 14 Project Delivery Engineer to oversee long-range planning and development of various projects. Her diverse career includes experience in traffic engineering, maintenance, division design construction, contract administration and project development.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Clemson University, an M.B.A. from East Carolina University and holds an N.C. Professional Engineer license, a Project Management Certificate and graduated from the N.C. Certified Public Manager Program. She is serving a two-year term on the Central Piedmont ASPA board.

Austin replaces Brian Burch, P.E., who has been promoted to western deputy chief engineer to oversee seven western divisions.

Her announcement is among several recent leadership changes at NCDOT. The agency also announced the promotion of Greg Burns from Fayetteville-based Division 6 engineer to eastern deputy chief engineer. Taking over in Burns’ former role at Division 6 engineer is longtime NCDOT engineer Drew Cox.