DOT Push for Ahoskie Bypass Criticized
Posted February 29, 2008 7:47 p.m. EST
Updated February 29, 2008 7:53 p.m. EST
Ahoskie, N.C. — The public is expected to sound off next week on a $111 million highway project in northeast North Carolina that the state Department of Transportation plans to build despite opposition from many local residents.
The 14-mile Ahoskie Bypass would whisk traffic around the Hertford County town and replace stretches of U.S. Highway 13 with a four-lane highway. Environmental studies of four proposed routes are expected to be completed this year, and the state plans to begin purchasing rights-of-way for the project in 2012.
Opposition to the bypass is building in Ahoskie, where residents don't like the idea of displacing dozens of homes and businesses and plowing under hundreds of acres of farmland for a highway that will send people elsewhere.
"I'd like to see (the area) remain country," bypass opponent Gary Terry said, calling the project a waste of DOT money.
U.S. 13 in Hertford County carries about 3,000 vehicles per day. By comparison, U.S. Highway 64 in Knightdale carried about 56,000 vehicles per day when the bypass east of Raleigh opened in 2005.
"If the folks in Raleigh, where there is real traffic congestion, knew they were going to spend $100 million-plus in a rural area, they'd be standing on somebody's head," Terry said.
But Windsor Mayor Bob Spivey said the bypass is needed to boost the economy in northeast North Carolina. Future plans include creating a major corridor from Winton in Hertford County to his Bertie County town.
"Jobs and opportunities of the future and for the generations to come are the ones that are really going to benefit from it," Spivey said. "You've got to have the vision now."
A public hearing on the bypass is set for next week. Terry and others said they would prefer the DOT spend money to improve N.C. Highway 11 in the county, but since that is a state road, there would be complications with using federal money on the project.
"All roads are political," Terry said. "I thought roads are built for traffic, but I have found out roads are built for economic development."
State Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, questioned the need for the bypass and said the money would be better spent easing traffic congestion in Raleigh or Charlotte.
"Don't build the Ahoskie Bypass. Put the money in Wake County and Mecklenburg County, where they've got traffic congestion," Hunt said.