Smithfield’s Venture Drive is cracked and broken, but the needed repairs have hit a bump in the road.
All bids for resurfacing the road came in over the town’s $700,000 budget, ranging from $735,000 to $1.2 million.
Venture Drive connects Bright Leaf Boulevard to Outlet Center Drive, home to Carolina Premium Outlets along with numerous hotels and restaurants. Along with Market Street, Venture Drive is the only way to reach the Interstate 95 outlets from anywhere else in Smithfield. The road was built on marshy soils and has crumbled into a rocky ride. Smithfield’s Town Council, though disappointed in the bids, says it will make things right.
“You know the condition of the road,” Mayor Andy Moore said during last month’s council meeting. “The condition of the road is the way it is because of the base in that area. It’s a wet area, and it wasn’t done, probably, right the first time.
“I just want to make sure, even if it came in over budget the way that we had planned on doing it, that we are going to do this the correct way,” Moore said. “We want to make sure that when we do this, it’s done the correct way.”
Town Manager Michael Scott said Geo Technologies, a firm hired to assess the road and make recommendations, had offered two options. The first option meant traditional resurfacing, which came in considerably over budget. The second, which Smithfield now hopes to bid out, is “full depth reclamation.” That method essentially recycles some of the existing asphalt, mixes it with concrete and other paving chemicals before putting it back on the road.
“That proposal should come in 25 to 30 percent cheaper,” Scott said. “Which is right where the budgeted amount is.”
The council plans to get Geo Technologies to its March meeting to discuss the option, and Scott said the firm has provided a list of streets in Raleigh and other North Carolina towns where the process has been used.
“It’s just another way of doing the same thing, a more modern way,” Scott said. “It’s not a new procedure; it’s not something untested. It’s just not something we’ve done in Smithfield before.”
Scott said that if the council pursued the recycled roadway method and bids were satisfactory, it could free up money for other paving projects around town.
“If this becomes a viable alternative, it may open some doors for us,” Scott said.
Councilman Emery Ashley suggested another funding model: asking the county to pitch in. He argued that while Venture drive is a Smithfield asset, the property and sales tax it helps generate largely ends up in Johnston County’s general fund.
“It’s a town road, I know we accepted it years ago, but would it be fruitful to ask the county to help pay for this, since they draw the lion’s share of property tax dollars and sales tax dollars?” Ashley asked. “If this road were not in the city limits, it would be the county paying for it. It’s a through road that benefits the county residents just as much, if not more, than the town residents. ... It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
The woes on Venture Drive are longstanding. Bill Andrews owns Andrews Satellite Sales and has been on Venture Drive for 12 years. He says the road has looked just as rough that entire time. He doesn’t think it has harmed his business, but it has made for a bumpy commute.
“Bottom line, I think everyone would like to see the road resurfaced,” Andrews said. “I know every town has its priorities, and it just hasn’t seemed like Venture Drive has been one of them.”