Local News

Future Is 4 Lanes For Sampson Co. Highway

Posted August 29, 2006 7:39 a.m. EDT

— Glance at a road map, and you will see North Carolina is increasingly ribboned with four-lane highways.

Just last year, U.S. Highway 1 swelled to four lanes all the way from Southern Pines to Sanford, bypassing the town of Vass. Work is under way along N.C. Highway 87 to make it four lanes from Fayetteville to Elizabethtown.

Now, Sampson County is waiting for N.C. Highway 24 to be widened to four lanes between Fayetteville and Interstate 40.

County officials have said they expect the expanded Highway 24 to spur economic development in the area, but some local residents and merchants have their concerns that the expansion could actually take away business, homes and the country-living way of life that comes with the classic double-lane roadway.

In nearby Autryville where the population is 200, for example, a motorist can stop at a "certified roadside farm market" to buy a watermelon, or even stop for banjo lessons. It's also the route on which Elsie Barefoot chooses to travel.

"I can't drive the four-lanes," said Barefoot, who is 83. "I have to drive two-lanes."

Still, others, like Eddie Williams, welcome the expansion. He said he is not too concerned that a bypass around Roseboro will steer business away from his shop.

"We need the progress," said Williams, who runs his own tire shop in Roseboro. "We need to make traffic go easier through here."

People from Stedman to Autryville to Clinton have heard about plans to widen Highway 24 for decades, and it still could be another five years before construction begins. Lack of money and environmental studies have kept the project from beginnings.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is planning two public hearings in September to discuss possible routes for the highway.