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Commissioners seek US 13/NC 11 improvements

WINTON – Highway improvement plans in the local area may not be inclusive only to US 158.

At their Tuesday morning meeting, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners approved a letter that asks the North Carolina Department of Transportation to consider improvements to US 13/NC 11 from Winton to NC 561 near Ahoskie.

With the blessings of his board colleagues, Commission Chairman Johnnie Ray Farmer signed the letter, one addressed to Stan White, who represents Division 1 on the DOT Board.

“The Hertford County Board of Commissioners respectfully request consideration be given to the establishment of ‘segmental’ projects within the scope of the Ahoskie Bypass Project, namely the segment of US 13/NC 11 from Winton to NC 561,” the letter states. “This area is within the scope of the Ahoskie Bypass project which is currently a part of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).”

The commissioners feel the improvements to this particular stretch of road will accomplish several things:

  1. Address the NC 11 & 11 and NC 11/561 safety issues, well documented by DOT for many years, by constructing overpasses.
  2. Move forward the most needed and least controversial portion of the Ahoskie Bypass project.
  3. Defer the debate regarding future improvements to US 13 and/or NC 11 south and west of Ahoskie.

“Any consideration given this matter will be greatly appreciated. In the interim, please advise if further action is needed on the local level in taking this ‘approach’ with these long-standing projects,” the letter concluded.

Copies of the letter were sent to DOT Division 1 Engineer Jerry Jennings, Ann Whitley of the Peanut Belt Rural Planning Organization (Bertie, Hertford, Halifax and Northampton counties), NC House Representative Annie Mobley and NC Senator Ed Jones.

“We need not waiver on this effort,” Commissioner Curtis Freeman said at Tuesday’s meeting.

In a related matter, Hertford County officials are scheduled to meet soon with Rep. Mobley and Senator Jones in an apparent effort to leverage political pressure on the proposed project.

The idea of improvements to US 13/NC 11 from Winton to NC 561 was first mentioned during an Aug. 13 meeting between the Hertford County Commissioners and DOT officials. That meeting was arranged after DOT had changed the accident-prone NC 11 & 11 intersection from a crossroads to a T-intersection. The commissioners expressed their concerns about the lack of communication between DOT and Hertford County officials prior to that change being implemented.

At the end of the Aug. 13 meeting, Jennings made the following statement:

“There are a number of options and opinions on where that (Ahoskie) bypass needs to go. The project goes from US 158 at Winton back to US 13 south of Ahoskie. The concept we’ve talked about is to look at an independent project outside the realm of the Ahoskie Bypass that would go from Winton to NC 561. It doesn’t preclude any of the options for going around Ahoskie; it just defers that debate until another date in time, but will allow us to address a highway where there’s minimal controversy over and is the most needed part of that project. We need to look at a way to structure such a project. We’ve got ongoing projects (set to begin in 2011) to improve US 158 from Murfreesboro to Winton and US 158/13 from Winton to Tar Heel (in Gates County). Adding this proposal would give us a nice little network of improved roads here.”

DOT is moving forward with a plan to four-lane a 7.1-mile stretch of US 158/US 13 from Winton to Tar Heel BBQ, including another bridge spanning the Chowan River. That is one part of a two-phase improvement project that also includes four-laning US 158 from the east end of the Murfreesboro Bypass to Winton.

Additionally, DOT has conducted public meetings regarding the design and construction of a four-lane US 158 from I-95 to the west end of the Murfreesboro Bypass. That project includes bypasses around Jackson and Conway.

Meanwhile, it appears the Ahoskie Bypass, a 13.2 mile project from US 158 at Winton to NC 42 in Powellsville, is on the back burner.

“At this point there is nothing happening with that project,” Jennings said at the July 19 meeting of the Hertford County Commissioners.

According to the Peanut Belt RPO’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), the Ahoskie Bypass ranks seventh on a list of 12 priority projects. The TAC – comprised of county and municipal officials in Bertie, Hertford, Halifax and Northampton counties – studies local road projects and submits its suggestions to NCDOT for their 2011-2017 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

Upon the selection of preferred route (there are seven alternatives) right-of-way acquisition for the Ahoskie Bypass was originally scheduled for 2012.

The estimated $111.2 million project was met with opposition from Ahoskie and Powellsville residents.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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