As the expansion of N.C. 24 inches its way from Cumberland County to Clinton — a move expected to bring a greater amount of traffic and economic opportunities — local officials are urging the state to consider funding for the portion left on the cutting room floor.
Sampson County Board of Commissioners chairman Jefferson Strickland has written a letter to N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony J. Tata imploring state officials to fund the two sections that were proposed as part of the six-segment project. Only four segments have been funded and bid out, with work starting in Cumberland and winding its way east.
On behalf of the commissioners, Strickland commended the DOT and the State Board of Transportation for recognizing the importance of the long-sought project to widen N.C. 24 through Cumberland, Sampson and Duplin counties.
“As we see the work commence on the Cumberland and western Sampson portions of the project, 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,” said Strickland. “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 development of the Highway 24 project all the way from I-95 to I-40.”
The overall N.C. 24 widening project proposes a four-lane roadway stretching for approximately 40 miles, from Cumberland County to Interstate 40 near Warsaw, divided by a median and with interchanges constructed at major crossroads. There are four funded sections of the N.C. 24 project, which is currently proposed to halt at Faircloth Freeway and Sunset Avenue in Clinton.
For the currently funded portions, the existing roadbed will be used, however municipalities, including Stedman, Autryville and Roseboro, will be bypassed to the north.
Segment A is entirely in Cumberland County, with Segment B beginning in Cumberland and ending at Dowdy Road in Sampson. Those contracts were awarded to Barnhill Contracting Company and work is under way. The next two sections, Segments C and D, are both entirely in Sampson and will be completed by Fred Smith Company Construction. Segment C extends from Dowdy Road to Mitchell Loop Road, and Segment D takes the project from Mitchell Loop Road to the U.S. 421/701 Bypass (Faircloth Freeway).
Two segments extending from Clinton to Warsaw have not been funded.
Those sections propose taking the project down Faircloth Freeway and continuing on U.S. 421 South (Taylors Bridge Highway) south of Byrd-Yancey-Bass Road and Janice Lane, where the construction of an entirely new road will cut to the east. The proposed construction would go across several existing roads, including Cecil Odie, Moore, Beamon Woods, Reedsford, Needmore and others before connecting with I-40 just southwest of Warsaw.
Completing the entire project is vital to the county and its growth, local officials said. Strickland called on DOT to help Sampson County complete its “mission.”
“The local governments and citizens of Sampson County have advocated the upgrade of the N.C. 24 thoroughfare for years,” Strickland stated. “For our rural county to successfully compete with the urban centers of the state, we must have the efficient transportation infrastructure that prospective businesses demand. To encourage tourism, we must have efficient routes to bring visitors and their revenues to our communities.”
A fully four-laned N.C. 24, he noted, offers the most expedient passage for local industries and agriculture leaders to access I-95 and I-40 and to seaports, major airports and big cities, whether Raleigh, Wilmington or beyond.
Connecting Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in the west to Camp LeJeune to the east, the four-laned thoroughfare provides a strategic defense corridor which can create logistic efficiencies for the military and position Sampson County as an attractive location for those companies who serve them, Strickland pointed out.
“However, sadly we cannot fully capitalize on the potential benefits of the improved roadway because two of the project’s six sections — the portions from Clinton to Warsaw, and to Interstate 40 — remain unfunded,” Strickland stated. “The Board of Commissioners respectfully implores the Department of Transportation to allocate those funds necessary to complete the remainder of the N.C. 24 widening project from Clinton to Warsaw. Our board and our citizens have been on a journey since the 1980s to see N.C. 24 four-laned from I-95 to I-40.”
DOT expects to complete the entire project by the end of 2017, with the project reaching Sampson County later this year and Clinton during the first quarter of 2015, at the earliest. Strickland and others hope that will not be the end of the line.
“To leave the project unfunded and unfinished is for Sampson County akin to exiting an interstate one exit before our destination,” the board chairman stated.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.