CLAYTON, N.C. — Drivers love the new shortcut around Clayton. However, some businesses want the congestion to return.
The 70 Bypass is a little more than 1 month old. It links Interstate 40 to U.S. 70 in Johnston County and diverts thousands of cars a day around the town of Clayton.
When the Bypass opened, Highway 70 through Clayton became designated as Business 70.
“As a business, you want more traffic. You want congestion,” said “Fathead the Barber,” who works at Glen's Barber & Style Shop on Main Street in downtown Clayton.
He declined to reveal his real name, saying he preferred to use his nickname.
Before the Bypass, according to “Fathead,” more drivers would cut through downtown Clayton to avoid the traffic on 70. More cars passing by meant the business received more drive-by exposure.
“Fathead” said they have a steady stream of regular customers, but he's noticed a 15 percent drop in new customers.
“That’s what people told us, they cut through town, stopped and looked over and said, ‘Whoa! (I) didn’t know there was a barber shop over here.’ And then maybe a week or two later, they will come by,” he said.
Some say fewer cars cutting through downtown also has an upside. Not as much truck traffic and less noise are perks, according to Keith Branch with the Clayton Chamber of Commerce.
Branch said he thinks the Bypass will prove to be a business boost.
“Because of less congestion, locals are going to be getting out more and feel more comfortable supporting places of business,” Branch said.
At Jones' Lunch on Main Street, locals are their business.
“I really don’t think the traffic, the number of cars coming through really had anything to do with how busy we were or weren’t,” said Curtis Jones, who owns Jones’ Lunch.
A steady customer base brings in the dough at Venero’s Pizza, although the restaurant has had a slight dip in sales.
“I don’t necessarily blame it on the Bypass. I think it has more to do with our economy and the price of gas, and that sort of thing,” said Colleen Walters, who works at Venero’s Pizza.
Residents WRAL spoke with said they enjoy the reduced traffic through Clayton and that they are able to get around town much quicker.
Officials with Clayton's Chamber of Commerce say 70 Business could be home to several big projects. They declined to go into details since plans are still in the works.
The Bypass is 10.7 miles long and cost $123 million. Construction began in June 2005, and it opened a year ahead of schedule on June 9. Officials said it's expected to carry 85,000 cars a day by 2025.