Traffic

New highway steers people away from Cumberland, Sampson towns

Posted 6:27 p.m. Thursday

— Progress is painful for some small towns in Cumberland and Sampson counties, which have been bypassed by new portions of N.C. Highway 24.

The state Department of Transportation is widening N.C. 24 from two to four lanes from Fayetteville to Clinton, and the work includes creating bypasses to speed traffic around Stedman, Autryville and Roseboro.

"I think it hurt all of our businesses here in Stedman," said Jay Johnson, who grew up in town and now owns the Stedman Soda Shop.

The shop has been in business since the 1940s, but it was empty during Thursday's lunch hour.

"(It's) absolutely scary," Johnson said. "You get something going real well, and as soon as everything's going real well, there's always a major speed bump in the road."

Dan Hayes, who owns the drug store across the street, had to put a sign out by the bypass to remind people he's still open for business in town.

"We just need to let people know Stedman's still here," Hayes said. "You can bypass us, but it's still here."

The highway, which opened two months ago, has not only been hard on the drug store's bottom line, it's also created confusion for some longtime residents, he said.

"I had a lady, 70 years old, lived here all of her life, did not know how to get home to Roseboro – right down the street. I had to give her directions," he said.

Johnson said drivers are getting used to the new traffic pattern, and business is slowly improving.

"It seems to me that the traffic now knows where they're going and how to get in and out," he said. "Our business has really picked back up, which has been a great thing for us."

The DOT plans to put up more signs to help drivers navigate to the bypassed towns, and Johnson said he hopes N.C. 24 eventually gets an exit at Maxwell Road, the western end of the Stedman bypass, to restore the old access point to the town for those who want to travel through it.

The N.C. 24 widening project is expected to be completed by February 2019.

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