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Town green lights condemnations for Gem St. Extension

July 15. Can you drive crosstown from Hwy. 21 to Hwy. 115 north of Westmoreland without using Catawba Avenue?

Answer: Not at the moment, but the town has given a green light to condemnation proceedings for the Gem Street extension in the heart of downtown.

The alternate East/West route is expected to relieve some of the crowding on Catawba Avenue, east of I-77.

The project, which will connect the dead-end of Gem Street to Oak Street behind the Oak Street Mill, will also widen Willow Street which is currently a one-way street. Willow will be open to two-way traffic.

A new sidewalk will be installed on this road as well.

Critical east-west connectivity

“The main purpose is east-west connectivity and providing an alternate route from Catawba,” said Assistant Town Manager Tyler Beardsley.

Once the Gem Street extension project is complete, motorists will be able to travel from 21 to 115 without getting on Catawba.

“It will be a circuitous route” Beardsley said, “but can be done with the new Nannie Potts Lane and Gem Street Extension.”

The project cost is approximately $1.5 million, with funds coming from the town’s 2013 transportation bond issue.

“We have a few more properties to acquire but will soon start utility relocation and we are hoping to bid this project later this calendar year.”