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Clayton Businesses, Drivers Ready For 70 Bypass

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CLAYTON, N.C. — Business owners along a stretch of Highway 70 in Clayton said the current traffic troubles have a negative impact on their businesses.

"The traffic is so heavy," said Chuck Coats, a business owner. "If people pull in here to stop and shop, then it takes them forever and ever to get back out onto the highway."

On Thursday, the N.C. Board of Transportation is expected to clear the way for a solution and end years of frustration for thousands of drivers and businesses.

The solution is the 70 Bypass, or the Clayton Bypass, a seven-mile highway designed to keep traffic moving past all of Clayton's stoplights and straight into a new I-40 interchange.

But this comes after a tiny dwarf wedge mussel in a nearby creek delayed the start of the project.

Many in Clayton don't understand how the endangered mussel was strong enough to hold up such a big project, and some are still mad about it.

"I don't know nothing about no dwarf wedge mussel, but you could probably find an environmentalist that could find something wrong with just us standing here talking," said Buck Gardner, a business owner in Clayton.

Johnston County commissioners have since cleared the way for the project to begin by protecting the habitat of the dwarf wedge mussel.

Johnston County put up a 100-foot buffer around creek beds and banned the clearing of land in the area of the creek.

Construction of the bypass is scheduled to start this summer.

"The bypass could make it a lot easier," David Beavers said. "It's a lot harder to stop with a boat, so missing all the stoplights would make it easy."

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