MURPHY -It may be shorter than a mile, but a new road under construction in far western North Carolina has big potential.
"Economically, this is going to be huge," says Murphy Mayor William Hughes. "We haven't had an impact like this since the TVA built Hiwassee Dam in the 1930's, and the population of the town tripled".
Workers are applying asphalt to the eight-tenths of a mile connector from U.S. 64/74 on the east side of Murphy, to the site of the new Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel. The North Carolina Department of Transportation expects paving to be finished in a couple of weeks.
NCDOT built water and sewer line connections to the property, so it could move forward with building and paving the road. "That work is almost complete, from a DOT perspective, and the tribe will reimburse the state, so it's a win-win" says Brian Burch, NCDOT Division 14 Construction Engineer. He adds the short road has been a big collaboration. "We've worked closely with the Eastern Band of Cherokee, town of Murphy, Cherokee County, and the contractor, Whiting and Turner.""This road is the conduit that's going to provide access to jobs, visitors, and tourists to our area, so we're real excited to be a partner in this project," says Burch. "There's potential in additional jobs created through more restaurants, hotels, and all the things that come with tourists visiting the area."
Mayor Hughes agrees the impact goes far beyond the anticipated 900 new Harrah's jobs. "Those 900 people will be living here, spending here, contributing to the economy."
He adds the new complex will also give those who grew up in the area a chance to stay here. "In the last 40 or 50 years, we see a mass exodus of young people this time every year. After graduation, some go to college, others the service. Those looking to enter the workforce often have to look elsewhere. This will give them a chance to continue living here."
Harrah's is hoping to open in late summer, according to the mayor. "Some of the workers have started training already," he says. "We've been anticipating this for a while and are excited for the opportunities it brings."