LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Leigh Dunston Challenges NCDOT Projections

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Leigh Dunston Challenges NCDOT Projections
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August 8, 2016. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Blowing Rock resident Leigh Dunston has some interesting questions about the U.S. 321 widening project all the way to Blackberry Rd. In this Letter to the Editor, he questions the recently advanced target date to completion, as well as the project’s overall cost.

Dear Editor:

On Wednesday, July 20th, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) made a presentation to Blowing Rock residents, business owners and any other persons who might have an interest in the US 321 project through Blowing Rock.

The NCDOT representatives stated that the project between Blackberry Rd. and Tanger Outlet –which is a distance of 4 miles — would be “substantially complete” by the Fall of 2017, or approximately 16 or 17 months from now.

NCDOT stated at the meeting that the original contract price for this segment of 321 between Blackberry Rd. and Tanger Outlet was $66.5 million dollars. NCDOT estimates that an additional $3.5 million will be required to complete the project. Therefore NCDOT estimates the total cost for the project will be approximately $70 million.

Consider the NCDOT projections of completion in the fall of 2017 and at a cost of $70 million in light of the following historical facts:

  • NCDOT stated on July 20 ,2016 that as of July 1 2016 the NCDOT had paid out to contractors approximately $55.5 million. $55.5 million represents 73% of the now estimated total cost [$70 million] for the entire 4-mile project.
    • The obvious next question is “What is the percentage of completion now for the construction of this project?”? In other words, since 73% of the money has been paid, what percentage of the project has been built? Is it 73% complete?
    • Mr. James Palermo refused to answer that question in the NCDOT presentation, but did not deny that information is available and essential to proper NCDOT administration of the construction of the project.
  • The project first began on Jan. 1 2012.
    • The project was (according to the NCDOT contract) scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1 2015.
    • As of this past Wednesday, the NCDOT projects “substantial completion” by the Fall of 2017.

YOU DECIDE if the NCDOT projection is delusional, wilful misrepresentation, or a good faith estimate.

Just drive the four miles between Tanger Outlet and Blackberry Rd. and ask yourself: If it has taken 4.5 years from Jan 2012 until now to accomplish what you see, is it even optimistically realistic to believe the project will be substantially complete by the Fall of 2017?

Keep in mind that NCDOT refused to answer the question: What percentage of the project has been constructed as of July 1 2016?  Why?

NCDOT did say that approximately 73% of the estimated cost had been paid but we cannot know what is the percentage of completion of the construction as of July 1, 2016. Why?


Drive the four miles and look out your vehicle windows and ask yourself if the progress you see — progress that has taken 4.5 years — will be “substantially completed ” in the Fall of 2017, as NCDOT now projects.


…Set off alarm bells that suggest a more appropriate completion date is

2018 ?
2019 ?


$80 million ?
$90 million ?
$100 million ?

Finally, ask yourself if NCDOT would make these projections and withhold the percentage completion information if we were past the Nov. election.



Leigh Dunston, Blowing Rock

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