An environmental group is suing the state in an attempt to block the project. The Department of Transportation said improving a major north-south corridor will help thousands of drivers.
Just north of Southern Pines, U.S. 1 is a two-lane country road. The Department of Transportation said it is time to upgrade and expand a 12-mile stretch of the road from Sanford to the communities of Vass and Lakeview.
The $65 million project would widen U.S. 1 to four lanes. In some areas, the new four-laner would bypass existing U.S. 1.
The road has not received a major upgrade since the 1940s.
"We need the additional capacity and the additional safety and to meet the growth and the needs of the citizens of this area," said Bill Rosser, DOT district engineer.
The expansion is planned to happen near the Little River. Environmentalists said that is a big problem.
The environmental group, MooreForce, has filed a federal lawsuit trying to block the widening project . The group said the DOT will ruin the environment and the community.
"It's bad news for the ecosystem, it's bad news for the businesses that depend on the highway in its present location, and it's really bad news for the future of Moore County," said Marsh Smith of MooreForce.
"We're trying to design a project that's environmentally sensitive and will address the issues that the regulatory agencies are interested in, making sure that we do the right thing," Rosser said.
If the Army Corps of Engineers issues a permit, and the environmental lawsuit is dismissed, the DOT plans to start construction in the fall.
The North Carolina Division of Water Quality has approved the project. That approval comes with 17 conditions designed to protect the environment.
MooreForce said the conditions do not go far enough.
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