Bypass moves one step closer

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 19, 2004

WINDSOR – Unless a Bertie County farmer is able to change its course, it appears the proposed US 17 bypass around Windsor is all but set in stone.

During a public hearing on the planned 8.7-mile, multi-lane bypass here Thursday night, the majority those gathered at the Bertie Council on Aging Senior Center maintained their silence, but a few did choose to speak &uot;on the record&uot; as required by the NC Department of Transportation (DOT).

Included among the speakers was George Hardin, a fourth generation proprietor of his family’s farm located near Davis Road, an area on the northeast end of the planned roadway. He expressed concern over the current DOT proposal, one that he said would force him to sell 40 acres of land for right-of-way purposes.

&uot;I’m not against progress,&uot; stressed Hardin, &uot;but I would like to see that highway turn a bit further to the north.&uot;

Hardin said he had previously pitched his idea to DOT officials, but, &uot;(the surveyors) keep on using the original lines.&uot;

Under his proposal, Hardin estimates he would only lose about 19 acres, most of which is woodlands.

It is near Davis Road where the existing US 17 will connect with the planned bypass. From that point, the new road – four lanes with a median in the middle – will cut a path north of Windsor, eventually intersecting with the current US 13/King Street intersection (the start of the existing US 13 bypass). That existing bypass will undergo improvements and will follow its current course to the US 13/17 intersection on the south side of Windsor. That intersection is scheduled to be realigned and improved.

The DOT plan calls for interchanges to be placed at the US 13/King Street intersection and at Wakelon Road. Meanwhile, an 1,800-foot span over the Cashie River will be constructed on the new bypass. In addition, Greens Cross Road will be realigned and bridged over the bypass.

The proposed project – one that carries an estimated $78 million price tag – will cause 13 residences and one business to relocate. It’s tentative schedule calls for finalized right-of-way by January, 2006 and construction by January, 2008. However, that timetable may be hastened by 15 months.

&uot;Because the US 17, Windsor bypass has been identified as a design-built project, this would expedite the entire process, meaning we can begin as early as September of this year,&uot; said Len Hendricks, a DOT official who acted as moderator for Thursday’s public hearing.

That came as great news for Windsor Mayor Bob Spivey, who said he was excited to see this project become reality, but he did express concern over &uot;controlled access private driveways&uot; as well as the location of right-of-way fencing in certain areas.

&uot;The Windsor bypass is one of the final pieces of the Hampton Roads (Va.) to Raleigh corridor (using US 17 and 64) as mapped out by Terry Sanford when he was a Senator,&uot; said Spivey. &uot;That corridor promises to bring jobs and we’re hoping that Bertie County can land some of those jobs.&uot;

The prospect of local citizens landing new jobs was pleasing to Steve Biggs, Bertie’s Economic Development Director.

&uot;There’s an old saying that if you get the roads, the businesses will come,&uot; noted Biggs. &uot;I’m hoping that saying is true in Bertie County’s case. Roads are essential for economic growth.&uot;

Other opinions expressed during the hearing included:

N Giving more consideration to overpasses rather than traffic signals at some inter in an effort to reduce the possibility of motor vehicle accidents.

N Concerns for those being relocated due to the planned route.

N Questions over the speed limits along the bypass. (After receiving input from another DOT official in attendance, Hendricks noted the new portion of the bypass could accommodate a 70 mph limit while in-town speed could be 55 mph or less. He said neither has been determined.)

N Concerns over beginning the project as early as September, 2004.

The Windsor bypass is a part of the North Carolina Intrastate System of Highways, as established in July, 1989 by the State Legislature. US 17, from the Virginia state line to South Carolina, is designated as a part of that Intrastate System.

Currently, the project has completed six of its eight scheduled steps. A copy of the state’s Final Environmental Impact Statement and a map of showing location and design of the bypass are available for public review at the Windsor Town Hall (128 King St.).

Citizens have 15 days from the date of the public hearing (Jan. 15) to mail their comments concerning the proposed US 17/Windsor bypass. Those comments can be mailed to Len Hendricks, NCDOT Public Involvement Unit, 1583 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1583.

A post-public hearing meeting will follow after the conclusion of the comment period. Any changes in the design of the project will be noted at this meeting.