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Ahoskie supports NC 11 project

AHOSKIE – For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the latest results: NC 11 n 2, US 13 n 1.

That scoreboard update came courtesy of an offensive move by the Town of Ahoskie on Tuesday.

By a unanimous vote, members of the Ahoskie Town Council approved a resolution calling for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) to reprioritize, plan and fund a four-lane highway project on NC 11 between Ahoskie and Bethel.

Earlier, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners forwarded a letter to DOT calling for the prioritization of the NC 11 project. Meanwhile, the Windsor Board of Commissioners has thrown their support behind the US 13 four-lane project from Ahoskie to Windsor. The Bertie County Commissioners have discussed the issue, but have made no decision. They have appointed a committee to further study which route deserves to be at the top of the priority list.

DOT officials have urged Roanoke-Chowan area officials to decide which project would be best for the region as a whole.

The Town of Ahoskie answered DOT’s request by adopting the resolution, saying the highway improvement will provide a greater benefit to the Bertie, Hertford and Martin County region by meeting future transportation needs and increased economic viability.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Ahoskie Town Councilman O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that he had closely studied this issue from every angle.

“As a major north-south highway artery that is a heavy trucking route, four-laning NC 11 from Ahoskie to Bethel makes the most sense since it’s the quickest link to US 64 and the major markets in Tarboro, Rocky Mount, Raleigh and beyond as well as a quick link to a major market in Greenville,” Suiter said.

Suiter introduced the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is something we need to get behind and become vocal over,” Ahoskie Town Councilman Malcolm Copeland said Tuesday. “We do not need the (US 13) Ahoskie Bypass; we need NC 11.”

The bypass project Copeland made reference to is a 13.2-mile project from Winton to NC 42 in Powellsville. It has been on the DOT drawing board for more than 10 years, but has hit an environmental snag. The project is expected to experience further delays while DOT officials explore alternate routes.

In its resolution, Ahoskie officials echoed the same thoughts as the Hertford County Commissioners, swapping the $102.4 million currently approved in the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan for the US 13 Ahoskie Bypass for funds to be used on the NC 11 four-lane project.

That plan calls for NC 11 to become a multi-lane, 29-mile divided highway from Winton to NC 903 north of Oak City in Martin County. Another plan in an adjoining transportation district calls for widening NC 11 to four lanes from NC 903 south to Bethel.

According to figures supplied by Hertford County Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer, the state would only have to come up with an additional $21 million for the NC 11 project. He said the $102.4 million earmarked for the Ahoskie Bypass would encompass 13.2 miles of new and existing roadway from US 158 at Winton to NC 42 at Powellsville. Meanwhile, the cost of the 29-mile NC 11 project is estimated at $123.1 million.

“Because the majority of the right-of-way for the NC 11 project is already owned by the state, our region would receive twice as much road for a fraction of what it would cost to start from scratch,” Farmer said in a recent interview. “If the state accepts the Ahoskie Bypass money and in turn uses it on NC 11, they would only have to come up with an additional $21 million to four-lane 29 miles of road. That’s a bargain when you think of the staggering price to build highways these days.”

Town of Ahoskie officials agree.

“It’s not that we’re against the US 13 project,” Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re just pushing for NC 11 to become the priority project. We feel it best serves the region as a whole.”

To back-up the “regional” concept pointed out in Ahoskie’s resolution, Bertie County stood to gain only one mile of four-lane road with the Ahoskie US 13 Bypass. With the NC 11 project, nearly 20 miles of that road in Bertie County (from Aulander to the Roanoke River) will be widened to four lanes.

Also on Tuesday, the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors approved a letter that will be forwarded to DOT officials in support of the resolution adopted by the Ahoskie Town Council.