ASHE COUNTY — Progress on the U.S. 221 widening project is gradually moving forward — as much as it has been since construction began in summer 2015, according to the North Carolina Division of Highways.

Out of the five sections of highway proposed in the 16 mile, $154 million widening project, four sections have seen some headway since December 2017.

Trent Beaver, Highway Division 11 construction engineer, said the widening project is still operating on-schedule, with one section set to open by the end of the year.

Sections A and B are about 80 percent complete, according to Beaver. All four lanes are expected to be opened along the 4.6 mile stretch of U.S. 221 by the end of 2020.

Section C, the most costly section of 221 being widened, is about 40 percent complete, according to Beaver. Beaver said all four lanes should be opened by the end of 2020.

Section D, the closest section to West Jefferson, is about 91 percent complete, according to Beaver, who said he hopes all four lanes will be opened to traffic by the end of 2018.

Section E, meanwhile, is still in the right-of-way acquisition phase, Beaver said, and bidding is not expected to begin on the 3.5 mile section of road until September 2019.

Other road projects

Elsewhere, U.S. 221-Business between Jefferson and West Jefferson, and East Main Street in Jefferson were resurfaced by Maymead Construction overnight the week of July 2, according to Beaver.

As preparation for widening U.S. 221 Section E between N.C. 163 and Government Circle, workers removed a ‘slip’ lane during the repaving of East Main Street in Jefferson at its intersection with 221 near Food Lion, according to Beaver, who said the severe skew angle of the slip lane also increased potential for accidents.

Beaver said there are a few other slip lanes across the county that will be removed in the future as more roads are resurfaced.

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