Funding all of NC 24 project makes sense

March 13, 2014

The Department of Transportation needs to fund the entire N.C. 24 project rather than pieces and parts of a long-awaited expansion that has been decades in the making.

It seems we’ve been down this road — imploring help on an age-old N.C. 24 problem that has been talked about since the early 19980s and earlier in Sampson County, with a whole lot of promises and very little action in the years that followed. Then, talk became more serious as we moved into the 21st century and actual work has begun, making us, the skeptics we’ve been, believers that what had seemed only a pipe dream might actually become reality.

But we should have known there would be kinks, and these, in our estimation are big ones considering only a small portion of Sampson will actually see the long hoped for expansion along N.C. 24.

As it stands now, only four segments of the six segment project have the financial green light: Segment A is entirely in Cumberland County; Segment B begins in Cumberland and ends at Dowdy Road in Sampson; Segment C, which is entirely Sampson, extends from Dowdy Road to Mitchell Loop Road; and Segment D, also all in Sampson, takes the project from Mitchell Loop to the U.S. 421/701 Bypass (Faircloth Freeway). And that’s where it would end unless additional funding to complete segments E and F, extending from Clinton to Warsaw in neighboring Duplin, is found.

Right now, work is under way on Segments A&B, with C&D expected to begin later this year and in Clinton by 2015.

But ending the expansion at Faircloth Freeway when there is so much left to be done stops the music long before the song has played out, and given the history of this long-awaited project, fears are that the remaining work could get back-burnered for an indefinite period of time, a long and arduous journey Sampson has already traveled.

Sampson County’s Board of Commissioners have wisely taken a stance that supports completing the entire project, and has expressed as much in a written letter to Tony Tata, Secretary of N.C.’s Department of Transportation.

In that letter, Commissioners Chairman Jefferson Strickland has stressed the board’s belief that funding the final two sections of the N.C. 24 expansion is vital to Sampson’s future growth and economic outlook.”

“…we are eager to experience the improved safety, enhanced mobility and increased economic opportunities this vital transportation link will provide our communities upon its completion,” Strickland wrote in part. “However, it is precisely because we realize the immeasurable importance of this corridor to the viability of our rural county that we must continue to urge the Department of Transportation to fully fund and complete the Highway 24 project all the way from I-95 to I-40.”

Strickland is correct in his assessment.

While the widening that is being funded will open some economic doors to Sampson, bringing more traffic to the area, it leaves us basically in the lurch in many ways.

A completed project opens the gateway for Sampson to benefit from a military corridor linking Ft. Bragg and Pope Air Force Base to Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville. But as the project is currently funded, it cuts that corridor off at the knees, drying up any positioning our county might have in attracting companies that might benefit from such a corridor.

And that just scratches the surface of why Sampson needs this expansion fully completed.

We’ve waited years and years and years for this project to actually get off the ground. Now that it finally has, it would be nice to see it completed rather than having to wait decades longer for what should have been a done deal years ago to actually become a done deal.