‘We will make a difference’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

AHOSKIE – The effort continues to stop the Department of Transportation from building a bypass around Ahoskie.

In a Tuesday night gathering held at Bearfield Primary School, officials with the Citizens Against the Ahoskie Bypass (CAAB) held their third meeting since forming in December.

CAAB co-founder and spokesman Kent Williams spent a great deal of time on Tuesday addressing a Department of Transportation (DOT) project currently under construction that has nothing to do with the planned Ahoskie bypass.

Williams spoke of the US 17 bypass of Windsor, one scheduled for completion later this year. He said the project design is flawed.

“They (DOT) are doing something there that will be very detrimental to public safety,” Williams noted.

Explaining his position, Williams said the freeway (limited access) portion of the US 17 project is planned to take the 17,000 vehicles per day now passing by Roy’s Service Center (the existing US 17 route north of the Cashie River) and put it on a new, four-lane road with a 70 mph speed limit.

“When that freeway ends at the shopping center where Burger King is, those 14,000 vehicles will join in with 6,200 other vehicles that use the road daily in front of the shopping center on down to Basnight’s, the Fuel Mart and the car dealerships,” Williams noted, saying his numbers were obtained from DOT.

“That’s over 20,000 vehicles now on an expressway, one with driveways and stoplights and on a road that is designed for 60 mph traffic,” Williams continued. “I didn’t say there would be a 60 mph speed limit there, I only said the DOT design plans call for 60 mph.”

Williams said that heavy volume of traffic will cause problems, adding that in his opinion those inter will become the most dangerous ones east of I-95.

“They call that a bypass, but they ain’t bypassed nothing,” Williams said. “All they’ve done is build a nice road to funnel all that traffic right along an area with businesses.”

Williams added that all Windsor officials see are dollar signs.

“(Windsor Mayor) Bob Spivey says everyone but Ahoskie has a bypass,” Williams said. “I beg to differ. Windsor will not be bypassed and Williamston isn’t bypassed. Those two do not have bypasses, but, by golly, they want Ahoskie to have one.”

Williams promised that CAAB will continue to fight to stop the proposed Ahoskie bypass. The group is also pitching an alternative plan, that of bypassing Ahoskie by using NC 11, a road that already has pre-purchased right-of-way stretching to south of Lewiston-Woodville.

To date, CAAB officials have met with both the Bertie and Hertford County commissioners, the towns of Ahoskie, Askewville and Aulander, Chowan University Student Government, the Ahoskie Kiwanis Club, Hertford County Farm Bureau, North Carolina Highway Patrol, the American Legion and the Roanoke-Chowan Wildlife Club.

“Every group I have spoken with favors Highway 11 over Highway 13, with the exception of the Bertie commissioners,” Williams said. “I’ve even gone door to door at the residences along Highway 11. Not one of them said they would mind if Highway 11 was four-laned in front of their homes because they know the right-of-way is already there.”

Later in the meeting, Williams presented a slide show of photos taken of bridges in the Bertie and Hertford County area. Those photos revealed serious deterioration of the bridges, including one where a piece of plywood was wedged in the deck underneath the span in an apparent effort to repair a hole in the road surface above.

“They want to spend $112 million to build a new road and they can’t even fix what’s already here,” Williams concluded. “We will continue to fight this bypass. We can make a difference. We will make a difference.”