Technicality Limits Big Rigs From Using Bypass

Posted September 19, 2007 6:37 p.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2007 9:29 p.m. EDT

— The new Highway 117 bypass between Wilson and Goldsboro was supposed to better connect the two counties and other highways. That's good news, unless you're a trucker.

A technicality means big rigs can't use the highway. That leaves just one road that tractor-trailers can use to get into and out of Wayne County.

Troopers on the 117 bypass stay busy pulling over over-sized trucks. The highway is not an approved route for trucks with trailers longer than 48 feet.

N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Johnson said most of the truckers he pulls over don't even know the shortcut between Interstate 95 and Interstate 40 is off limits.

“You could probably write 10, 15 [tickets] a day,” he said.

Troopers said they enforce the law because of previous accidents. Ramps and lanes on unapproved roads make it tough for larger trucks to turn safely.

“Wayne County ranks near the very top in this area as crashes involving these large trucks off of these routes,” said N.C. Highway Patrol Lt. Everett Clendenin.

Department of Transportation officials said the 117 bypass was built to interstate standards, which should allow larger trucks. A federal committee denied the application because the bypass hits U.S. 264 first instead of reaching I-95 directly.

Highway 70 is the only approved road for larger trucks in Wayne County.

“It’s going to be an economic disaster for Wayne County,” said Wayne Aycock, safety director for Wilco Transportation.

All of Wilco’s trailers are 53 feet long.

“We're not deliberately trying to break the law,” Aycock said. “We want to comply with the law, but we just need some help on getting some other routes.”

The state appealed, and DOT officials hope the new 117 bypass will become an approved route by the end of this year.

For now, larger trucks caught on the shortcut will leave with a citation. Under the law, trucks can leave approved routes for three miles to make deliveries or get food or gas.

Some groups are trying to get more approved highways in Wayne County. The bypass issue could be up for discussion next week.