Local News

New Bypass Should Ease Johnston County Traffic Woes

Posted December 29, 2005 7:17 a.m. EST

— For some people, there's nothing like the North Carolina coast at the end of Highway 70. The problem is -- you have to take Highway 70 to get there. Beachgoers stacked up through all the Clayton stoplights last summer as they headed toward locales such as Atlantic Beach, Salter Path and Emerald Isle.

A few months ago, the first trees were cleared as the DOT began work on a solution. Now the Highway 70 Clayton bypass is taking shape, and people are taking notice.

"We're expecting huge economic impacts here in Smithfield as well as Selma, and also along down the Highway 70 corridor," said Smithfield Chamber of Commerce representative Chris Johnson. "This has probably been the No. 1 project for eastern North Carolina since I-95 was opened up."

Once the bypass construction started, work began in Smithfield on a three-story, $5 million office building. Running 11 miles from Smithfield to I-40 just inside the Wake County line, the bypass gives growing Johnston County a quicker connection to Raleigh and RTP.

The road also bypasses 11 stoplights for beach travelers. Skipping all those lights could knock a half-hour off the trip to the coast.

The bypass will lead to a better trip to the beach and new life for the Smithfield economy, but a dead end for some people. New Bethel Church Road is in the way of a new ramp for the bypass. The road will close permanently.

"We go to church over at Wildwood," said homeowner Molly Penny. "Instead of going left from here, we're going to have to go right and go all the way around."

The Penny family moved here 50 years ago. Now the new construction will change the way they move around Johnston County. But the beach crowd, commuters and developers said it's well worth the move.

DOT engineers said the bypass should be finished by August 2008.