Bypass relegated to fifth fiddle

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 11, 2008

Sometimes, it’s better to listen to the delivery of a statement rather than to concentrate on the meat of the subject.

Is it my interpretation, or does Bob Spivey really believe that without four lanes of black asphalt laid upon the earth on the outskirts of Ahoskie that the popularity of our little corner of the world will fall faster than President Bush’s approval rating?

Mayor Spivey continues to preach that the Ahoskie bypass holds the key to the economic development of the local area. He continues to say that every other town within the general area already has a bypass, which, by the way, is an inaccurate statement.

Windsor is not bypassed, even with the current construction of the US 17 loop on the east side of town. All that road will do, if headed south, is roll out the welcome mat for motorists to stop at any of the fine establishments located on a busy stretch of US 13.

Ditto for Williamston. Once crossing the Roanoke River bridge heading south on US 13/17, there’s a major shopping center, restaurants, a gas station, a bowling alley and other commercial

properties on either side of the road prior to reaching the “Longest Driveway in North Carolina” n aka US 64.

You want to see a real bypass….check out US 17 around Edenton, Hertford or Elizabeth City or travel on NC 11 at Bethel.

So, getting back to the purpose of this column, just how important is the Ahoskie bypass? Again, if one listens to Mayor Spivey, it will be the best thing since indoor plumbing hit this area years ago. But what I find so amazing is that the Ahoskie bypass (the goose that will lay the proverbial golden egg if one listens closely to all the propaganda) isn’t as important as Bob Spivey makes it out to be.

Last year, the Peanut Belt Rural Planning Organization (RPO), of which Spivey serves as chairman, voted to accept a priority list of 10 projects within the RPO district (Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton counties). Certainly, the Ahoskie bypass was number one on that list…..right Mayor Spivey?

Guess what…it wasn’t.

Certainly it had to place a close second to the US 158 widening project planned between the Murfreesboro bypass and Winton (which, by the way, was at the top of the priority list). Sorry Charlie, no second place cigar for the Ahoskie bypass. That honor was reserved for another US 158 project, this one a plan to four-lane that road from Littleton to Roanoke Rapids.

How ‘bout third on the list, or even fourth. Nope; nadda. Those respective priority projects were awarded to a proposal to widen US 13 between Powellsville and Windsor and a service road running parallel to I-95 near Roanoke Rapids.

Exactly halfway down the top-10 list was the Ahoskie bypass. Yep, this proposed four-lane freeway was so dang important to the economic future of the local area that it finished behind a two-lane service road that will benefit the ongoing Carolina Crossroads project.

Gee, that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling all over, knowing that a service road ranks higher in importance than the Gateway to Windsor Highway, oops, my bad, I mean the Ahoskie bypass.

What I want to know is who’s fooling who? Did it raise a red flag to anyone but myself that the proposed widening of US 13 between Powellsville and Windsor ranked higher that the Ahoskie bypass. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

Another interesting fact emerging from that RPO meeting was that widening NC 11 ranked last on the list.

Two projects that widen US 158 from Weldon to the Murfreesboro bypass, complete with bypasses of Jackson and Conway, tied for sixth place. Deadlocked in eighth place was widening US 158 from I-85 in Warren County to Littleton (a project not even in the Peanut Belt RPO district; someone go figure that one out; subliminal thinking n politics) and widening US 13 from Winton to the state line.

There at the bottom was NC 11, one that called for widening to four lanes from NC 903 in Martin County to Ahoskie. I’m surprised it didn’t place 11th behind a one-lane path leading to an outhouse because this priority list reeks of old-fashioned, arm-bending politics.