Bertie leaders support US 13

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2006

WINDSOR – The score is now even…well, sort of.

At their meeting here on Monday, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that endorses the retention and improvement of the existing US 13 route between Ahoskie and Bethel.

Additionally, that resolution supported funding to four-lane NC 11 through Bertie County. While the board supported the NC 11 project, it was adamant in its stance not to trade existing federal funds for the US 13 improvements in lieu of widening NC 11.

With that move, officials in Bertie County (the commissioners and the Town of Windsor) have the US 13 improvements at the top of their list. Meanwhile, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners and the Town of Ahoskie are throwing their support behind NC 11.

While the Bertie Commissioners support both local road projects, they are deeply concerned over a plan now under consideration by the North Carolina Department of Transportation that calls for US 13 to be rerouted along NC 11. Bertie officials, in the resolution, said they considered any rerouting of US 13 as “detrimental to the economic future of Bertie County.”

The resolution went to on read, “the existing route of US 13 best serves the persons and businesses now using the highway as well as new communities and population centers being developed east and south of the existing route.”

Through the words of the resolution, the Bertie Commissioners pointed out that US 13 in their county is now dotted with businesses that employ approximately 500 people; that the existing road is a major trucking route between the Windsor/Williamston area and Ahoskie; that it is also the primary trucking route used by 13 counties to access the Bertie Regional Landfill; and that US 13 is a state-designated hurricane evacuation route.

In addition, the Bertie Commissioners pointed out in the resolution that US 13 played a key role in the growing tourism industry in northeastern North Carolina. In Bertie County alone, there are four major housing, recreational and retail developments either under construction or on the planning table.

“Rerouting US 13 along NC 11 will divert north-south traffic westward from these new areas of long-range economic development and population growth that are crucial to the economy of Bertie County,” the resolution read.

They added that the existing US 13 route, including the Ahoskie Bypass, was approved in the state’s TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) and the improvements could be finished faster than the proposed alternate plan along NC 11 due to environmental problems associated with that project through the Roanoke River “low grounds.”

Meanwhile, Hertford County officials say they are studying this issue from more of a regional standpoint.

The Town of Ahoskie’s resolution said that favoring NC 11 over US 13 would provide a greater benefit to the Bertie, Hertford and Martin County region by meeting future transportation needs and increased economic viability. Ahoskie officials also said the US 13 bypass around their town was not needed.

Ahoskie Town Council members and Hertford County Commissioners are in favor of 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.

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.

However, if the US 13 project is favored by the state over NC 11, Bertie County will stand to gain more in the way of four-lane asphalt. That project would four-lane the road between Ahoskie and Windsor, where it will connect with the existing four-lane roadway that stretches to Williamston and then onward to Bethel (where US 13 shares a route with US 64).

In addition, keeping US 13 along its current corridor will allow the highway to tie into the US 17 bypass currently under construction around Windsor.

DOT officials will have the final say on which of the two projects will be deemed as a priority.