The four-mile N.C. Highway 162 is expected to open by the end of the month, after crews put the finishing touches on a leg between Camden Road and Legion Road, said Tracy Pittman, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman in Cumberland County.
Although Pittman said the opening is technically four months ahead of schedule, for local residents, its been years in the making.
"We started talking about it when I was a senior in high school," Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees said.
Much of the delay came from deciding where to locate the road, officials said. The idea would often lose momentum and get pushed down the DOT priority list, they said.
The state finally awarded the $24.6 million contract to build the highway in 1994. The four-lane, divided highway will link Bingham Drive to U.S. Highway 301, sweeping around downtown Hope Mills.
"We need to get some of that traffic off Main Street," Dees said. “I still don’t think it’s going to alleviate all the problems, but it’s going to help with school traffic because it does run right by (South View High School).”
But downtown merchants and area drivers are eager to see the road open.
“It will relieve the traffic problems, and you can get places quicker,” said Helen McLean, of Hope Mills Saw and Mower. “It’s a beautiful road.”
"I think (downtown traffic is) terrible," resident Sharon Hill said. "It's kind of dangerous, (with) lots of fender-benders."
Dees said N.C. 162 could also open new areas to development, which the town could then annex.