Admitting my mistake

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 14, 2008

To be a man, one has to admit when he’s wrong.

I’m wrong and I’m man enough to admit it.

On the issue of the proposed US 13 bypass of Ahoskie, I’m wrong to let my little half-acre of heaven, one which sits on the edge of one of the proposed bypass routes, stand in the way of progress. God forbid me from preventing the motoring public, some of whom may be my friends and others who are total strangers from out-of-state, from having the luxury of reaching Point B from Point A in the quickest and most efficient way available.

Therefore, I will surrender my land to the state if they so choose to make an attractive offer. All I ask in return is that the state Department of Transportation thoroughly and accurately considers, without the interference of politics, which of two major north-south corridors in the Roanoke-Chowan area should be improved.

If there was one major thing I learned from last week’s Citizens Against the Ahoskie Bypass meeting at Hertford County High School, it was DOT must have loads of money to spend. I made that assumption based on the fact that the state apparently overlooked the strengths that NC 11 has as a worthy alternative as both a bypass and a major player in the economic development of the R-C area as well as eastern North Carolina.

I built my facts on questions I posed to Kim Gillespie, a DOT engineer in attendance at last week’s meeting. I asked her to explain how DOT projects such as a bypass get started. She answered that all factors n population growth, economic impact, etc. n are considered as well as DOT planners in Raleigh are always looking “20-to-30 years down the road” in an effort to keep abreast of future needs.

If DOT is indeed keeping informed and up-to-date, I beg to question why wasn’t NC 11 the first consideration as a possible bypass of Ahoskie? I’m not a math genius by any stretch of the imagination, but if one already has pre-purchased right-of-way (to expand to four lanes) in their hip pocket along an existing 20-plus mile of two-lane road, then why does the state want to spend an estimated $8.85 million to buy right-of-way and then add another $102.4 million for construction of a road that must be built from scratch?

Forget for the moment all the homes, farms, businesses and churches that stand in the way of the proposed US 13 bypass (no matter which of the now five alternative routes are chosen). We all pay state taxes, so let’s look at this from a money standpoint. Why would taxpaying citizens agree to allow DOT to spend our money unnecessarily? Why would be want to spend nearly $9 million to purchase right-of-way for up to 16 miles when we, as taxpaying citizens, already own right-of-way along a stretch of 20-plus miles that would serve the same purpose? I know it’s not equal in value, but if someone gave me a $30,000 vehicle as a Christmas gift, am I going to run out and buy a new vehicle?

DOT must think they have more money than Bill Gates, but they seem to forget where that money came from.

I’m all for my tax money being spent in the most prudent way possible. Purchasing right-of-way that already exists along another route and then building a road from the ground up, when we already have a roadbed ready for expansion, would be the biggest waste of tax dollars in the history of North Carolina.

And I don’t want to hear the excuse that the only reason we in Ahoskie and Hertford County want to four-lane NC 11 is so we can get to Greenville faster and shop ‘til we drop. No, NC 11 just makes better sense from a money standpoint. Plus, that road serves the region’s largest employer (Perdue Farms) and allows for a better transportation route for the area’s second largest employer (Nucor) not to mention it’s a faster, closer route that links Hertford, Gates, western Bertie County and eastern Northampton County to the US 64 corridor. In a day of $3-plus for a gallon of gas, aren’t we all looking for the shortest routes to travel?

If I’m wrong on this, then come take my land in order for Ahoskie to become the gateway for future development along the US 17 corridor. I will not be able to live with myself if I prevent growth from occurring in cities such as Little Washington, New Bern and Jacksonville (which, by the way, are NOT located along either US 13 or NC 11).