Ahoskie Bypass project splits

Published 11:43 am Monday, February 14, 2011

AHOSKIE – A partial compromise to the much-debated US 13 Ahoskie Bypass is drawing favor on several fronts.

Last month at a meeting of the Peanut Belt Rural Planning Organization (RPO) in Murfreesboro, there was discussion about changing some of the state’s TIP (Transportation Improvement Projects), moving some forward and dividing others into smaller packages.

One of the issues discussed at that meeting was an alternative of separating part of the proposed US 13 bypass of Ahoskie. The (Peanut Belt) RPO – which represents the TIP interests in the counties and municipalities of Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton counties – has developed a resolution supporting the Ahoskie Bypass alternative.

“The Hertford County Commissioners submitted a letter to DOT supporting this issue and I was asked by state DOT officials if I would present you with a resolution of support to consider,” said Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond to members of the Ahoskie Town Council at their meeting last week.

Hammond represents the town on the RPO.

He noted the separate portion of the Ahoskie Bypass targeted in this resolution supports four-laning US 13 (and NC 11 further south) from the US 13/US 158 intersection in Winton to the NC 561/NC 11 intersection (near the Ahoskie Inn).

“The reasoning behind this part of the project is DOT already owns the right-of-way in this particular area as well as DOT felt this part of the overall Ahoskie Bypass project is less volatile, vocal and contested. They would leave the issue of getting from that point of the project to Windsor for future generations,” Hammond said.

“Or to Greenville,” chimed in Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn, referencing a Hertford County effort to four-lane NC 11 South rather than US 13 South.

“It seems that all parties desire to get the first leg of this project done; that’s why DOT is asking for Council to consider approving this resolution,” Hammond stated. “If you agree to support it, the resolution will go straight to DOT and we may see some progress on this highway improvement within the next couple of years.”

Hammond was of the opinion if this part of the project moves forward, the town of Ahoskie stands to gain from what he referenced as commercial development at and near the NC 11/NC 561 intersection. That western edge of Ahoskie is already witnessing growth with the recent construction and opening of Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s new office as well as one now occupied by AgCarolina Financial.

“This is a project that could have a significant impact on our development,” Hammond stressed.

Councilman Malcolm Copeland asked if the proposed project would do away with “Mount Hertford” – a local moniker given to the dirt pile placed by DOT at the NC 11 & 11 intersection in an effort to close off one side of that junction, which has been the scene of numerous accidents and fatalities over the past 20 years.

“I would venture to say it probably would,” Hammond answered. “DOT is talking about having interchanges along this stretch of road.”

Council approved the resolution without opposition.

According to a Nov. 22, 2010 letter from the Peanut Belt RPO to Stan White, then the Division 1 representative on the North Carolina Board of Transportation, this particular segment of TIP Project R-2205, referenced as the northern part, will move ahead independently of the southern section in an effort to address safety issues at intersections (NC 11 & 11 and NC 11/561) along this route.

“This request in no way changes the RPO’s commitment to the rest of project R-2205, but is only meant to address the safety issues as soon as possible,” said the letter to White, one signed by Ann Whitley, secretary to the Peanut Belt RPO Advisory Committee.

The entire R-2205 project begins at US 13/158 at Winton to US 13 south of Powellsville. Another DOT proposed project begins there and completes a four-lane highway to the US 17 Bypass at Windsor.

R-2205 was met with opposition from its inception in 2007, particularly from residents living in or near Ahoskie and Powellsville.

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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